One Track Mind: Charlie Hunter, "Blind Arthur" (2012)

Jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter has the blues, or at least his version of such things, on this new song.

For a guy who made his name playing it so outside — and so very, very cool — “Blind Arthur” is a brilliantly gritty, determinedly old school moment for Hunter. Inspired, it’s said, by Hunter’s passion for ragtime-based pre-war blues guitarist Blind Blake, the lead single from the forthcoming self-released Not Getting Behind Is The New Getting Ahead couldn’t fit any more perfectly into the title theme for this album — a collaboration with drummer Scott Amendola that’s due on October 2, 2012.

There’s less jazz here than blues, less swinging improvisation than hurt and dark passion. It’s part of an all-original album — the guitarist’s first in three years — that’s being touted as being among his most heartfelt ever. Recorded live, together in a room and straight to tape, the songs reflect the narratives Hunter has absorbed while touring around the nation during these difficult economic times.

[STREAM IT HERE: "Blind Arthur," the lead single from Charlie Hunter's new release 'Not Getting behind is the New Getting Head' is streaming at Magnet Magazine. Check it out here!]

That connects Hunter, in a way, to Blake — an itinerant musician who recorded some 80 tracks for Paramount between 1926-32, but principally found his art in much the same way — even as it updates the age-old form. Hunter isn’t mimicking Blake’s classic finger-picking style (an inspirational touchstone for players as diverse as Ry Cooder, the Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen and Leon Redbone), but rather incorporating that texture into a broader mosaic of deeply emotional shadings.

Meanwhile, Amendola doesn’t so much drive the song as provide a heartbeat for Hunter’s explorations — something that quickens and then slows, in perfect symmetry, as the guitarist comes upon each deeply moving new revelation.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.