I’m a decent enough guitarist, but I’ve never thought I had what it takes to be in a blues band. In spite of their best efforts, to do it well takes a certain energy and stage presence that I feel a lot of musicians are lacking.
If I were in a blues band, though, I’d take one look at the Robert J. Hunter Band, and I’d quit. You’re not going to get it better than them unless you’re Robert Randolph or Derek Trucks, so assuming you aren’t them, wouldn’t you rather watch greatness unfold than try and hopelessly compete with it?
Hailing from various spots in the Channel Islands, and now based in London, England, the Robert J. Hunter Band have been stirring up the live music scene for a few years with their energetic, powerful performances. Along the way, they’ve released two albums of original blues tunes, and frontman Robert Hunter has also released an acoustic EP of more soulful, reflective tracks. All at once, they’re a traditional blues band, with a new attitude, and something meaningful to say; their lyrics often make it clear that they play the blues because they’ve faced the blues in various ways.
They released their third album this year. It’s self-titled, and the band name is the only thing you see on the album’s cover. On the one hand, it makes sense because the album proves once and for all that only the Robert J. Hunter band sounds like the Robert J Hunter band. On the other hand, it makes sense because this album almost feels like a rebirth; they’ve never sounded like this before.
The only thing that might be lacking from the band’s previous albums is the electricity that’s present when seeing them live. The music is fantastic, but there’s something transcendent about seeing it played in front of you by three stellar musicians giving it their all. I have no idea how they did it (bands with million dollar budgets struggle to manage it sometimes), but that energy is on this record, etched into every vinyl groove, lasered onto every CD. From the opening howl on opening track ‘Loving Unfortunately’, to the blistering, brooding vocals and guitar on ‘Every Heart Has a Home’, to the infectious groove of ‘Mr. Winter’, there’s magic embedded in this album. The classic blues that the band has always done so well has been injected with a healthy dose of classic rock sensibility, and bolstered by their bravado. The Robert J. Hunter band want to be heard, and you won’t be able to escape this album. This is the sound of a band that fills stadiums; it’s only a matter of time before the band’s popularity catches up with their talents.
All this energy and harder rock vibes don’t mean that the band have sacrificed Robert Hunter’s vulnerable, emotive songwriting, either; the raw power of their performance actually improves on their more emotional side, lending a purity and honesty to songs like ‘Alone’ and ‘By My Side’, without sacrificing the album’s sound or breakneck pace.
This album is the realization of everything their previous albums have tried to capture, and a testament to why people keep coming to their shows; The Robert J. Hunter Band rock, and they roll, and they play the blues with all their heart. I’d tell you they smoke the competition, but frankly, they’re in a league of their own, and I hope it isn’t long before their name is known over on this side of the pond.