Van Hunt CD review [Capitol]



Music Reviews
Van Hunt CD review [Capitol]
By
Feb 24, 2004, 17:24

VAN HUNT CD

Assuming it's all true, neo-soul buzz-boy Van Hunt's backstory is positively screaming for a big-screen adaptation. Hunt was raised by his single mom but also spent much time hanging with his pimp/artist/mental-patient dad, soaking up the weed/funk/booty-fueled activities in the old man's Dayton, Ohio, crib. After fleeing the Midwest for Atlanta, he fell in with the local hip-hop scene and landed a deal with a major. Supermodel girlfriends can only be next…

Hunt is adept on a variety of instruments, including sax, drums, and guitar, and his rock-damaged R&B gets him favorable comparisons to Prince. But it's the ghost of Curtis Mayfield that really haunts this boy's world, with Stevie Wonder, Shuggie Otis, and Marvin Gaye bringing up the rear. Hunt has Mayfield's wah-wah guitar, squealing falsetto, and soulful orchestration nailed down solid: witness the gliding strings of “Precious,” “Seconds of Pleasure's” inner-city blues, “Will You Love Me in Winter's” mack-daddy, funk sleaze. Based on only this debut, it's hard to say whether Hunt's name-checking of certain punk acts as key influences is sincere or meant to woo rock critics; while he rightly cites the sway of soul music over forbears like The Stooges (whose “Loose” borrows heavily from both Barrett Strong's “Money” and Little Stevie's “Fingertips, Part 2”), there aren't any obviously punk-inspired moves on this record. There are, however, definite glimpses of classic rock, as in “What Can I Say's” winning mix of The Beatles and Stevie Wonder. Tracks like the radio-hit opener, “Dust,” and “Hold My Hand” are emblematic of the other, non-revisionist side of Hunt's approach, that of contemporary urban styles. Sometimes this tapped vein is really well done and catchy, and would sound great slinking out of the car speakers. But sometimes it veers too close to KISS-FM-style schlock, making us want to hear something loud and crunchy instead and dig out that Deep Purple tape when we should be keeping both hands on the wheel and not trying to dig for a tape while we are also holding a very hot beverage—danger!

Still, there's enough good music here to warrant a buy for anyone who enjoys (me whitey) ol'-skool soul. Not sure this early on which trajectory Hunt's muse will follow, but he's certainly got our ear for now. [Capitol]

-Peter Aaron

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