James Hunter, JD McPherson, and the warm soul of Analog sound

I was living in Denver the first time I heard James Hunter on the radio. He had just hit it big with “People Gonna Talk,” and it was on heavy rotation on the AAA station I listened to at the time (the call letters and frequency escape me).

Alex Garcia-Rivera’s studio in Medford, MA, runs exclusively on vintage analog equipment, unlike most modern studios with digital capability. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff) Source: Boston Globe

I’ve had several moments in my life where I’ve been listening to the radio and have suddenly felt like I had been struck by a bolt of lightning. And this was another one of them. The Soul fan I am, I was struck not only by his voice and his top-notch band, but the sound. It was so warm, so rich, so perfectly matched with the soul of the performers. I was so enthralled by the sound that I did some research, and apparently Hunter searched all over England for an analog studio for this project, and he finally found one.

Last year, JD McPherson released Signs and Signifiers, another unbelievable analog recording. “Northside Gal” went through the roof, and he’s been hot property ever since. There have been a few others as well, including Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

All of the examples I’ve mentioned have a strong R&B flavor to them. Some are just straight-up old-school SOUL that would make Berry Gordy proud and/or envious. McPherson’s a little more rockabilly, but that’s more related than people might think.

What’s amazing about this is that these recordings have enjoyed not only critical acclaim, but massive popular appeal. People have gone bananas for them. Why? Because it feels genuine. It sounds and feels like real music. It makes you want to listen to the entire album, the way people used to listen to music. Above all, you can hear the passion of the performance. And you’re pretty much guaranteed that this is how it will sound if you go hear it live.

Hunter’s newest album, Minute by Minute, was again recorded in analog, and I was not disappointed after my first listening of it. He hits it out of the park yet again. Here’s a behind-the-scenes promo clip for the new album:

I’m not a musician, and I have just enough basic understanding of sound engineering to be irritating to someone who really knows what they’re talking about. BUT I know what good music sounds like. And I know that GREAT music grabs you by the ears and doesn’t let go.

Wanna know what I would really like to hear? Conjunto or Tejano recorded in analog. If Hunter, McPherson, and the Dap Kings were able to revive the magic of the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, and Carl Perkins, surely today’s best Conjuntos could recapture the musical sorcery of Tony De La Rosa and Conjunto Bernal? I think so, and I think fans would go crazy for it.

Clip to Evernote

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