The James Hunter Six’s ‘Who’s Fooling Who’ Is an Immaculate Throwback

Elias Leight

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The James Hunter Six’s “Who’s Fooling Who” feels beamed in from a jukebox circa 1967, when the world was overflowing with simple, devastatingly effective, sub-three-minute soul singles mapping the treacherous terrain of romance: The Sapphires’ “Who Do You Love” and Evie Sands’ “I Can’t Let Go,” Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger” and Brenton Wood’s “Trouble.”

‘Who’s Fooling Who” is suitably spare, mostly a gentle lick on acoustic guitar, maybe a cousin of a bolero or a bossa nova, and a soft tumble of percussion. Hunter’s voice is wonderfully craggy, weathered and torn even at its brightest, and he pulls his lyrics straight from the early Sixties Smokey Robinson playbook: “When I say I’m doing fine, don’t you be surprised/If I still smile, but meanwhile, it’s a different story in my  eyes.”

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Hunter’s band adds smart filigree around the rub-a-dub drumming — a series of three note horn lines, clusters of piano notes that offer an outline of the primary melody. Best of all is the harmony vocal that cloaks Hunter every time he poses the questioning title phrase. The singer closes the track with a ghostly, wounded cry, ending on a note of anguish.

“Who’s Fooling Who” appeared on Hunter’s recent album Nick of Time.

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