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.
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.