James Hunter is one of the best (and one of the few) British blue-eyed soul singers to emerge in the late 20th century. Hunter began his roots music career in the 1980s under the name Howlin' Wilf. His solo recordings feature rhythm & blues in the style of the '50s, pitched between R&B, early rock & roll, and early soul. His 1994 solo debut, ...Believe What I Say, had guest appearances by Doris Troy and Van Morrison, and Hunter appeared on a couple of Morrison's mid-'90s albums, as well as performing as part of Morrison's Rhythm & Blues Revue. Hunter, also a skilled guitarist, wrote most of the material on his 2001 release Kick It Around. Go Records/Rounder picked him up a few years later, and he released his third full-length album, People Gonna Talk, in 2006. The album went on to be nominated for a 2006 Grammy Award. Hunter left Rounder after the record's release and eventually emerged on Hear Music with The Hard Way in 2008. His wife Jacqueline was diagnosed with cancer after the album's release, and Hunter took time off. She passed away in October of 2011. Hunter re-emerged as the James Hunter Six as an acknowledgment of his backing musicians, who had stuck it out with him for two decades. In 2012, he and the band teamed up with producer Gabriel Roth, co-founder of Daptone Records. The end result was Minute by Minute, which was released by Go Records in February of 2013.
In 2015, JH6 holed up with Roth again at the producer's helm, at Penrose Recorders (aka Daptone West) in Riverside, California, and recorded live-to-eight-track tape. They cut a wealth of new originals in a variety of rhythms, culling the results to ten songs. On January 22, 2016, the single "Something's Calling" was released simultaneously as both a digital download and a 45-rpm vinyl record. It was followed by the full-length Hold On! in early February. That same year, England's Mojo magazine proclaimed Hunter "The United Kingdom’s Greatest Soul Singer." He also remarried, and his new spouse Jesse became the inspiration for three songs (including the title track and both pre-release singles "I Don't Wanna Be Without You" and I Got Eyes") for his third Daptone album with the James Hunter Six, 2018's Whatever It Takes. The title song was written as encouragement after she underwent a particularly grueling process to gain U.K. residency. Produced once more by Daptone's Grammy-winning Roth (aka Bosco Man), the set contained ten original tracks and recorded live to eight-track (analog) tape at the label's Penrose, California studio. Whatever It Takes was released in February 2018. ~ Richie Unterberger