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Music Review: Long John Hunter – Looking For A Party

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What’s a little heart work for a man that plays the blues?  After all, that’s what the blues are made of.

John Thurman Hunter Jr. was born in Ringgold, Louisiana in 1931, but was raised in Magnolia, Arkansas. As such he was exposed to the music of many of the early Delta blues musicians. By the time he reached his early twenties, he had relocated in Texas where he would reside for most of his life.

He was inspired to become a performer after seeing B.B. King in concert. He received $2.50 for his first live show, which made him realize there was money to be made. His longest gig, and probably one of the longest in music history, was at the Lobby Club in Juarez, Mexico from 1957-1970. He issued a few singles during the 1950s and 1960s, but it was not until 1988 that he issued his first album. Looking For A Party is his seventh release.

He is a pure blues guitarist and vocalist. His sound may be modernized due to his smooth vocals and use of a horn section to fill in his sound, but the overall style and approach can trace its roots through the electric blues of Chicago during the late 1940s and early 50s, and even further back to the Delta.

The title song is the album’s lead track, and if you are unfamiliar with his work it provides a nice introduction. He tends to emulate B.B. King in that most of his soloing is done when not singing. His solos all have a purpose and are used to complement and enhance the song’s melody. The creative riffs and his ability to bend the strings to create a near perfect tone have all been honed by years of playing and practice.

“Beggar Man” is a slower, stripped down piece that keeps the focus squarely on his vocal as the solo does not occur until the songs end.

The most unusual track, and one of the best, is “I Know A Man.” There has always been a close connection between gospel and the blues, and this track combines the best of both. His vocal assumes the role of the preacher, as it is both painful and emotional in getting his message across.

“Apple Of My Eye” travels in a different direction and can be best described as boogie or swing blues as it gives homage to his Texas roots.

He has surrounded himself with a stellar cast of backing musicians. Drummer Lee Spath, bassist Richard Cousin, keyboardist Jim Pugh, rhythm guitarist Alan Mirikitani, and a brass section including Tom Peterson, Lee Thornburg, and Ira Nepus all enhance his music without getting in the way.

As with many of the great guitarists, his playing seems effortless. Looking For A Party is a worthy addition to his catalogue of recordings. Now at the age of 80, he is a link in the blues chain that stretches back to the early 20th century. His music is worth exploring for any blues enthusiast.

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