Wild With Weary
There are plenty of gravel-road vocals out there, oft compared with the obvious, but in Robert J. Hunter there is a distinctiveness that is something to do with the depth of tone, and the clipped pace of the singing, that makes it more than just another. It’s the emotion too, as on the blues ballad Nightmares from his debut album, a song shredding feeling through the struggle to shout out the pain.
Opener Turning is a near-three minute blues chug that launches this fine Alderney disc via the swamp-surround of another dirt island, the power trio format in fulsome fettle. Second Demons ‘wa-ohs’ the darkness with more grit and grind, the fuzzed bass and organ rises pushing to a Beefheartesque moment before a return of ‘wa-ohs’ and its choric conclusion.
There are acoustic based blues made heavy by the weight of that forceful voice, and larger band numbers like Hurricane where a guitar wail rides the tail of the vocal storm, drums thundering beneath – just before Hunter growls out his final pangs. I imagine this is rousing stuff played live. I like the howl and female call of Truce, the acoustic and electric guitar work merging ballad and funk tempos, and always the emotive peaks of Hunter’s vocal assaults. The dirt-dirge of See You in Hell has some welcome blues harp to secure the overall roots.
Closer Chains is a sweet one, Hunter playing fine guitar to gently underscore the talent beyond his singing, though it is again that singing which fills the aural room and I’m sure those venues where he now continues to make his presence heard, and remembered.