Charlie Hunter has the ability to have fun and relax, in seamless fashion, all the while working. As the show opened on the 2nd floor of Molly Malone’s in Covington, he wasted no time diving into the music; as he and Drummer Derek Phillips played four tunes before verbally addressing the audience. But ah, this is what true enthusiasts of Hunter’s music expect; for the substance of any show is in the music. For the entire evening, he may have shared two, maybe three song titles with the audience.
The stage had a warm, cozy feel to it, in a sort of unplugged way. Whether seeing him for the first time, or the 50th time, there is no mistaking the fact that Charlie has a genuine love for what he does. He connects with the audience from more than a social level, but a musical level as well. On every tune, Charlie and Derek demonstrated “call and response”, exchanging playful sneers, smiles, and even cheerful shouts while non-verbally inviting the audience to join in the fun of the great music experience. Charlie’s custom 7 and 8-string guitars equips him for utilizing his magnificent technique of simultaneously carrying the bass line and lead melody. This was truly something to take in live, for appreciating the intricate skill and dexterity required - translating to what you see and hear; as one Guitarist delivers the sound of two, and at times three.
Just before the end of the first set, the duo performed Copperopolis, a blues-driven, crowd-pleasing tune they recorded in New Orleans just 1 week before the Hurricane Katrina devastation occurred.
A refreshing move happened at the start of the 2nd set, where Charlie and Derek were seen approaching the stage; and what sounded like a warm-up, actually a crescendo into the unannounced opening number (Well played, in my book - the move, AND the music). The delivery in the 2nd set continued in the same vein as the first, light, fun, and as relaxed as Charlie’s black boots, jeans, and loose flannel.
The duo closed with the title track from Charlie’s 2005 release, Gentlemen, I neglected to inform you will not be getting paid, a tune that travels through jazz, blues, and borderline bluegrass. And with a much-demanded encore, Charlie and Derek returned to wind things down with Smoke gets in your eyes.
Charlie and Derek struck a balance on all their tunes. The up-tempo numbers were alive and driving, evidenced by unison claps and people dancing on the far ends of the 2nd story hall; while slower tempo tunes were delivered with a seductive groove that roped in the audience, never dull or drifting.
Musicians of today cite inspiration (among other things) from legends of yesterday. But what makes a legend? Early in their careers have any of these "legends" pick up their instrument to play, with the aspiration of becoming a legend? I choose to think not. The focus and energy has always been on the music, driven by passion.
With Charlie Hunter's passion for the music, and brilliance of craft, he is sure to be mentioned for generations to come.