Kick It Around

James Hunter

Ruf Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There are times when I do this job that it feels like a compact disc is actually a time machine. It might be 2001 as I write this review, but if the contents of a CD are well-written and executed, I can almost see the calendar on my kitchen wall start counting backwards until I'm transported to a specific time.

In the case of James Hunter, I often felt like I was listening to the glory days of someone like Sam Cooke as my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Kick It Around, Hunter's second solo release, played in the background. A relatively short disc, Hunter delivers the goods consistently throughout the 12 songs on this disc - and it leaves you wanting much more.

Hunter has mastered the concept of blue-eyed soul, but has not come off sounding like a half-hearted practicioner like so many of his contemporaries over the years. If anything, Hunter shows throughout the course of Kick It Around that he's respectful of the musical heritage he is celebrating, and doesn't want to do anything that would dishonor it.

"Dishonor" is not a word to be used at any time on this disc. From his dead-on cover of "Lover's Question" and heartfelt renditions of "Dearest" and the instrumental "Night Bus" (the latter a surprise, albeit a pleasant one, due to the strength of Hunter's vocals) to the retro-laden power of originals like "Because You're Mine" and "Mollena," Hunter reaffirms constantly that he could well be the lead dog in this musical pack..

If there is any problem I have with Kick It Around, it's the brevity of the disc, clocking in at just under 33 minutes. Then again, sometimes the hallmark of a great artist is making your statement and getting out of the way before you wear out your welcome. This might have been Hunter's goal - in which case, he's succeeded. As long as the material was as strong as what Hunter came to the table with, I could easily sit through a box set of his work and never get tired of it.

Kick It Around is a disc you won't want to treat like a soccer ball; if anything, you might have a hard time taking it out of your CD player. Hunter's tribute to the light soul-tinged R&B of the early to mid-'60s sounds incredibly fresh today, and should be pleasing to all listeners, especially those who grew up with singers like Cooke. This is a disc that is not to be missed.

Rating: A-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Ruf Records, and is used for informational purposes only.