Sixteen years after first hearing guitarist Charlie Hunter lay down bass and leads simultaneously on his custom-built eight-string instrument, I’m still amazed by the accomplishment. He’s got a unique tone, a kind of tougher take on John Scofield’s sticky funk, and I’ve been impressed by how many milieus he’s successfully wandered into—funk, New Orleans grooves, reggae, postbop, jam-band turf. But while the loads of recordings he’s made since his 1993 debut have been mostly enjoyable, none of them has ever really hit me on any kind of emotional level.
On his latest album Baboon Strength (Spire Artist Media) he’s playing a seven-string guitar (no word on what happened to that other string), but not much else has changed. It’s a trio outing with keyboardist Erik Deutsch and drummer Tony Mason that finds him pushing deeper into jam-band territory; his occasionally hooky tunes are built on rhythmic motifs and the group rides them out in favor of any meaningful melodic or harmonic exploration. It’s not bad, but with the exception of nicely soulful “Astronaut Love Triangle,” it hasn’t lured me back for additional listens.
Hunter plays a duo gig with drummer Simon Lott tonight at SPACE, an eclectic Evanston venue that’s been working hard to compete with the dominant Chicago club scene in its bookings. Every month they seem to be doing a better job.
Romulo Fróes, No Chão Sem o Chão (YB Brasil)
We the People, Too Much Noise (Sundazed)
Vaselines, Enter the Vaselines (Sub Pop)
Pato Fu, Daqui Pro Futura (Rotomusic)
Peggy Lee Band, New Code (Drip Audio)