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James Hunter Gives R&B A British Spin

Of the Oakland Press

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Given his “quite obvious” influences — a who’s who of American R&B from Ray Charles and Sam Cooke onward — British singer, songwriter and guitarist James Hunter wondered how his fi rst U.S. release, “People Gonna Talk,” would be received on these shores.

“It’s kind of like bringing coal to Newcastle (England),” says Hunter, 44, who grew up listening to his parents’ blues, R&B and early rock ’n’ roll records on the victrola in the Thorrington, England, mobile home where he grew up. “But maybe you can never get enough coal.”

That seems to be the case with Hunter and his brand of R&B. “People Gonna Talk,” his third album overall, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Blues Album chart — not exactly what Hunter considers his genres but an association he doesn’t really mind, either.

“I strenuously denied being a blues act,” he says, “but I don’t mind if people call me one. People run into all sorts of troubles with categories; they called Aretha Franklin the Queen of Soul after she stopped doing it, really.

“I mean, it’s just music. I don’t really pay too much attention beyond that.”

American audiences are paying attention to Hunter, though. He says that he’s noticing larger crowds at his shows — and that people are more familiar with the songs. And his very fi rst album, 1996’s “... Believe What I Say” — which features guest appearances by Van Morrison and Doris Troy — was recently rereleased for the United States.

“It’s something different,” Hunter says of his appeal. “It does sound familiar, ’cause the songs I write are really quite simple; that’s what makes them accessible enough.

“Either that, or I’m really clever,” he adds with a laugh. “But I don’t think that’s it.”

James Hunter performs Tuesday (November 14th) at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12. Call (248) 544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag. com.

Web Site: www.themagicbag.com

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