The title of Charlie Hunter’s latest lends a hint that all 11 songs on it are culled from some old songbook. And indeed, all were chosen by Hunter’s 99-year-old grandfather!
While on the surface it might seem a ploy to dodge publishing fees, Hunter is serious about giving these songs their due. Known for playing an eight-string guitar, here his instrument has “only” seven, and he plays it without his trio.
It’s a treat to hear him take a classic like “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” through several feels while never losing the melody; as it winds down, it turns to bluesy funk. He does the same with “Danny Boy,” which in Hunter’s able hands gets a soulful run with sustained notes and swinging bass lines. He swings on “Meet Me in St. Louis,” which starts with a ballad feel before he takes it in the swing direction.
Other tunes, like “Avalon,” “Limehouse Blues,” “Cielito Lindo,” and “How You Gonna Keep ’Em Down On The Farm?” could become bogged down, but Hunter never lets that happen, as it’s easty to forget it’s just one fella and his guitar. You also forget the songs are 100 years old – all sound new and vibrant.
This disc is a winner, and will especially appeal to those who like hearing a veteran jazz picker play with nothing getting in the way.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Mar. ’11 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.