WHO IS HE? The 57-year-old British rhythm and soul throwback who went from busking in London to playing guitar and singing backup for Van Morrison — before launching a solo career that has earned him a Grammy nomination and opening slots for everyone from Aretha Franklin and Etta James to Willie Nelson and Tom Petty. Not bad for a guy who quit school at 16 and worked as a railway switchman.
WHAT IS THIS? His sixth North American release, 11th album overall (counting four he made as the leader of the regrettably named Howlin’ Wilf and the Veejays), and fourth collaboration with Daptone Records co-founder, producer and likeminded retrophile Bosco Mann aka Gabriel Roth.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Another great lost soul album from the early ’60s. As usual, the grainy-voiced Hunter and partner-in-crime Roth pay zero attention to modern musical or technical standards, preferring to live in a monaural world where Sam Cooke and Nat King Cole rule, melodies are front and centre, grooves make you snap your fingers, horn lines are low and growly, and great songs last 2:50 before fading out.
WHAT ARE THE MOST REVEALING LYRICS? “I’m on a mission of no return.” Or perhaps: “I can’t help myself.”
WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? Everything New Is Old. Again.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? On vinyl, of course — preferably while reclining in front of one of those giant old console stereos in the wood-panelled rec-room of your suburban split-level ranch house. Option 2: On a portable record player while sipping highballs and cutting an indoor-outdoor rug at a swingin’ pool party.
WHAT 10 WORDS SUM IT UP? Nostalgic, cool, soulful, unvarnished, mellow, groovy, sweet, romantic, stylish, intimate.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? Close your eyes and drop the needle. You can’t go wrong.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘This seems like a good time to say that they don’t write ’em like that anymore, but he obviously does.’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO IT? Whenever you get sick of the cookie-cutter, trend-hopping cliches and bullshit that passes for pop music.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE A RADIO, WHAT WOULD IT BE? A portable transistor number that fits in the pocket of your cardigan sweater.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? Streaming this would be like framing a .jpg of the Mona Lisa. Even paying for digital tracks seems a little like sacrilege. Do it anyway — but order the vinyl version.