CD REVIEW: Robert J Hunter - Songs for the Weary
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Artist: Robert J. Hunter
Songs for the Weary
Genre: Soul Rock, Swampy Rock, R&B, Psychedelic Rock, Americana
Sounds Like: Dr. John, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Greg Allman, ZZ Top, Lil’ Feat, Jimmy Buffett, The Band, Leon Russell, Grateful Dead, Joe Cocker, Randy Newman, Bad Finger
Weakness: Winded Songs, Hard to digest vocal delivery, Short Sided CD, More Instrumentation
Robert J. Hunter delivers a high energy, gruff, performance of dirty blues. RJH’s debut single, ‘Demons’ is out now and has reached number one in the UK Itunes Blues Chart. His debut album, ’Songs for the Weary’ is out 10th February 2015. Heavily influenced by Peter Green, Tom Waits and The Doors to name a few, RJH is no stranger to the stage. performing in bands since he was 14 in Alderney, Channel Islands where he was born. RJH signed to Spectra Records in December 2013 having previously supported acts such as Wilko Johnson, Josh Kumra and HeyMoonShaker. His latest 11 Track album is called “Songs for the Weary” and was released in 2014 (Spectra Records)..
The CD kicks things off with “Turing” a slamming intro piece that serves-up rock steady rhythm section, soulful vocals from Hunter, smoking R&B style guitar licks and impressive solo guitar. Track 2 “Demons” keep thing rocking with its striking musical flow, against hot to the touch guitar riffs and off the charts vocal intensity from Hunter. Track 3 “Sleepless Nights” delivers a grooving-moving ditty with well-placed vocal melody, slamming Harmonica, and thought provoking lyrical content that flows and ebbs its way through to musical fruition. As the CD slowly unfolds you will notice a lot of musical variety from Hunter reminiscent of classic Dr. John, Lil’ Feat, The Band, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, ZZ Top, Bad Finger, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Gregg Allman, Randy Newman and even The Grateful Dead. First the music itself has a lot of vocal originality and possesses a psychedelic 70’s rock persona. The CD offers a rich melodic vocal foundation and lush layers of instrumentation. I would classify this music as classic 70’s Psychedelic Rock, R&B, Soul Rock and even Jam Band with a strong emphasis on vocal harmonies and good songwriting and superb musicianship. All in all the CD has some truly impressive moments on it showcasing amazing playing, dynamic arrangements, and wire arrangement of instrumentation. Besides the standard 4 piece delivery you will also notice brief splashes of harmonica, Hammond Organ, well placed harmonies, and amazing R&B guitar layered within the music. As far as vocal abilities, Hunter brings the mojo and lets it all hang out with a lot of groove-ability and more than enough soul to go around. His voice presents a jagged edge, rather rough and tumble approach across the board possessing a soulful vocal swagger reminiscent of classic Dr. John, with just a splash of Joe Cocker and Randy Newman. All production aspects check out as the CD has solid low end groove and crystal clear high end clarity. Kudos goes out to the amazing R&B guitar showmanship. From the slow burning “Nightmares” to rocking “Trial by Fire” title track and “Late Night Western” to heartfelt “Class Reunion” to melodic “Hurricane” and striking “Witches & Wolves” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 11 “Chains” the perfect faille statement for a CD of this caliber.
All songs over 3.5 minutes tend to drag you t the finish line. Vocals from Hunter are to say the least not easy to digest – not even close. It’s safe to say he doesn’t have the greatest Baritone in the world. When Hunter gets really intense and reaches deep for the higher registries and power it’s actually quite awkward and somewhat uncomfortable to listen to. Hunter should work a bit with a top flight vocal coach to take the edge off this issue. Joe Cocker is one guy that comes to mind, that with the right amount of touch and finesse and voice with a stereotypical jagged edge can be crafted into something very appealing. CD is a bit short with just 11 Tracks, perhaps 2=3 more tracks are needed to make this a fully loaded CD release. CD needs more instrumentation on it as well, Things like an occasional Saxophone, Horns, Electric Piano, Piano, Pedal Steel and Slide guitar
In closing Robert J. Hunter’s latest effort Head of the Line is just a blast to listen to and is a strong musical production from start to finish. The music is highly original, extremely melodic with amazing writing and playing from all involved. As the CD progressed I became more and more impressed with it. Because of the influences I would say the flower children who like Leon Russell and Grateful Dead out there will love this one. The musicianship is first rate, the songs are quite dynamic and in extend play format many will enjoy. Each song possesses a unique personality, flair, and signature groove. Lastly - the writing and singing abilities of Robert J. Hunter delivers the “old school soul rock” goods.