I told you a few weeks ago that I’d be talking about this The Hard Way, and here it is. I had been listening to this album for the greater part of about 3 weeks now, so I had more than enough time to wrap my head around the concepts of these songs, Hunter’s style, and all that good stuff.
As I said in the “Mollena” post, I discovered James Hunter while at Ruby Tuesdays by way of the nifty Shazam app on my Droid. I identified two songs I really liked and was surprised that the same artist was responsible for both. The other song in question was and is still a current favorite: “Carina.” Before I jump into analyzing song by song, I just want to say that the album as a whole has an awesome retro soul/R&B/blues/rock ‘n’ roll feel that I absolutely love. Some of it feels tinged with a Latin twist, or maybe I’m confusing it with something else. Perhaps it’s just Hunter’s guitar? I know I love Hunter’s voice. There are very specific times he does interesting things with it while singing. “Fluttering” is the best word I can think of to describe whatever it is he’s doing. I’ll note when this happens in the songs mentioned (“She’s Got a Way” has a lot of this fluttering). I’m not listing every song here, but most of them I like a lot more than others. I can listen to this entire album beginning to end, but I’m inclined to skip over one or two to get to one in particular… or keep one on repeat. Also, there a number of his songs that are half instrumentals
The Hard Way–The title track is a cautionary tale of sorts. Except, the song doesn’t actually state what’s being cautioned, so you can interpret it any way you’d like. There’s an easy way and there’s a hard way… and for some reason, you decided to take the hard way and now you are in pain or regret when you were advised there’s another way. Besides ambiguous lyrics, I find the music upbeat and fun. This song is a great way to introduce this artist especially if you’ve never heard of him, or heard him at all, which is probably why it’s track 1.
Carina–This song gives a very happy and positive feeling. This is one that I felt had a Latin-esque vibe to it. Perhaps by Latin, I also mean island-sounding. Like when you think of the Caribbean. I love the lyrics to this song. A nice little love song to a girl named Carina to hurry up and show that you feel the same way or else… As much as I love this song, there’s not much I can say about it. Maybe because this is one of those songs I have on repeat? I mean this song is what made me buy the album.
Hand It Over–This song didn’t pop out to me the first couple of times I listened to it. In retrospect, it’s a nice companion piece to “Carina” for the fact that the singer is still trying to get his potential love’s attention, or at least to reciprocate his love for her. It also has that island sound going on. What’s nice about this song, besides the gentle groove of course, is that in the chorus he implies that he won’t try any “funny business”, or at least that’s how I interpret it. Once I got lost in the song’s melody, it became one of the “repeats” of the album.
Jacqueline–This song was the second song I heard from this album and further proved to me that this guy is singing from another era. He channels Little Richard and some of doo-wop sounds of the 50’s or 60’s. As for the song, this is about a girl who changed the life of the singer in a profound and positive way. Possibly a “Carina” after she “Hands It Over”? (Wow, reading that out of context implies something else entirely.) Anyway, this is a fun song with some high energy.
Class Act–The chorus is what got me for this song. It has a Sam Cooke vibe too it. As I said before, once you channel Cooke, I’m pretty much onboard with anything else you have to offer. The song is cool. I gotta be honest, even now I’m not entirely sure what this song is about. I haven’t listened to the words that often on this one, even now. Sad, I know.
Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere–What I dislike about this song is how short it is. I love this song though and falls more into the blue genre. An up-tempo song about the singer returning back home to his lover, should she let him back in, of course. This is another song where I feel Hunter really exercises his voice, or at least his expressions and pleadings to this woman. For the sake of all that’s decent in the world, lady, please let this man return!
Believe Me Baby–Ray Charles much? I mean that as a compliment actually. This is another song I will confess I really only listen to for the music. It’s also another song that’s partially instrumental… so I think it’s understandable why I’m not as interested in what the song is about (which is more or less about convincing a woman that the singer is worth the time). When he does sing, there’s some “fluttering” happening here that’s pretty cool.
Strange But True–To me, this is the last song on the album and is very appropriate. (In actuality, the last song is live song that I’m not too crazy about and usually skip over.) I like this song due to it’s’ “man and his guitar” simplicity. In fact, I could sum this song up in that word: simple. But of course I mean that in a very good way. As for the meaning of the song, when I first was listening through the album (usually just for musicality’s sake), I was under the misinterpretation that the song was saying how strange it was to be in love with his woman for as long as he has been, perhaps thinking he’d possibly fallen out of love over time or would have. Even that concept would make for an interesting song, but alas, that’s not what this song is about. Instead, it’s about a man who realizes that long after the relationship has ended, he is still in love. It’s a sad song, but it doesn’t really feel that sad. To me, it’s more like “here are the facts, take from it what you will and maybe, possibly, you might feel the way, but if not, oh well.” So in short, it’s sad but also optimistic. Overall, I get a Sam Cooke vibe again from it, so I knew I would be listening to this song several times… and I have.
And overall, I’d say this album is one of those rare gems that you never knew existed and find by accident. You’d find this in the sea of 2008(!). While Joss Stone is probably better known than James Hunter, I still consider her a rare gem, but better known and accessible. (Just so we have an idea of what celebrity I’m talking about: The Beatles > Elton John > Joss Stone > James Hunter.) The point of the matter is this: if you love soul, good singing, good music and looking for that retro feel, than this is another artist worth checking into and buying.