Long John Hunter

Long John Hunter
Looking For A Party

Blues Express

By Brian D. Holland
December 2009

Long John Hunter has been a genuine bluesman with authentic style and showmanship since the ‘50s, but he was a virtual unknown until Alligator Records released his debut CD, Border Town Legend, in 1995.

The Texas bluesman, known locally as the Texas Shuffle King, honed his craft for years in the bars along the Mexico border. His juke joint audience was never scarce of big names either, as Etta James, Gatemouth Brown, Lightnin' Hopkins, and others would often stop by to hear the nasal tenor with the clean and melodic guitar licks. In listening to him, it's easy to understand how he influenced the likes of Lonnie Brooks, Phillip Walker, and even Buddy Holly at one time.

Hunter's latest release on Blues Express, Looking For A Party, is a solid collection and might just be his best recorded work to date. Even though he's the frontman on the album, the diversity of styles in the band emphasizes an atmosphere of individual expression encouraged in these sessions. With producer and chief songwriter Dennis Walker (who also produced Robert Cray's Strong Persuader and Midnight Stroll) in charge, traditional blues becomes something new and different. It's all about arrangement and the filling in of spaces.

The title song highlights Hunter's clean guitar sound and relaxed vocal technique. The vaudeville piano of Jim Pugh, whose credits read like a who's who in blues, is veiled behind the rhythm and horn sections while the keyboard inserts interesting little accents everywhere.

The art of the slow blues is represented in a few places. “Greener Pastures” is the ideal example in every way. It highlights the band as a whole and although Pugh again does his own thing, he doesn't stray far from the terrain. Although background orchestration broadens the arrangement in “Beggar Man”, Hunter's guitar and vocal resonance keep it in the slow blues mood.

“I Know A Man”, one of the album's finest tracks, has a Van Morrison feel, but the vocal emotion is all Hunter. In “Apple of My Eye,” Hunter does the shuffle he’s famous for in dazzling fashion, complete with horns and an impressive rhythmic drive, and the band sustains that rhythm all the way to segue into “You Say You Want A Caddy”.

Music like this makes one wonder how much influence Hunter may have had on the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

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