Afterglow (EP)

Robert Hunter

Independent release, 2017

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


There’s no real reason any performing musician should listen to me—the guy who can’t play a single chord or hold a single note—but if I could offer the lead vocalists of the world only one small bit of advice, it would be this: sing it like you mean it. I couldn’t care less how many octaves you’ve got, or how perfectly-pitched your voice sounds after it’s been auto-tuned; for me it’s all about conviction. Are you fully invested in the words you’re singing? Do you believe in them a hundred and fifty percent? If the answer is yes, most other sins of a musical nature are forgivable.

Robert Hunter and I connected last year via his impressive EP Outta My Mind. At the time I commented on how much his music reminded me of early Rob Thomas/Matchbox 20, and that impression carries over here; the sound once again is passionate, guitar-centric alt-rock full of urgent vocals and ringing riffs. Most importantly, as you may have guessed by now, he sings every note like he means it.

Opener “Gone For Good” is a big, echoey, escape-from-our-troubles road song with a singalong chorus over a precisely modulated meshing of reverbed guitar and resonant organ; it’s easy to imagine this one stirring up an arena crowd. Hunter’s pleasantly rough-edged vocals convey urgency and angst as he repeats “I can’t sleep alone” over and over at the bridge, yet this one still clocks in at a concise, punchy 3:05.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Next up, title track “Afterglow” offers a nice change of pace, opening over acoustic guitar and Hammond and doing a steady build into its billowing choruses. The craft Hunter and producer Dave Bechtel put into these tunes shows up here in little touches like the way the key line “You’re my afterglow” is followed immediately by electric guitar chords that feel like an afterglow, all golden and burnished and resonant. (And if the line “It’s three o’clock in the morning” triggers an instant flashback to Matchbox 20’s “3 AM,” well, what’re you gonna do? That’s an excellent song too…) 

“In The Middle” is a terrific, surging melodic rocker in the Counting Crows vein, whose tasty electric riff and urgent vocals drive the song at such a clip that you barely notice him trying to force “infinite” to rhyme with “right.” Mid-tempo “seize the moment” anthem “Ditto Baby” opens in a quieter setting but develops steadily, framing Hunter’s earnest vocals with piano, Hammond and guitars.

Closer “Cable” personifies the tension at the core of much of Hunter’s music with the chorus “I’m a cable / I’ll be alright if I can just hold on.” It’s a cut that achieves lift-off riding a wave of propulsive rhythm guitar and Hammond, with Hunter’s urgent vocals driving and pushing to the very end.

Compliments are definitely due to producer Bechtel, who gives these five tunes a nice clear shine without losing the organic feel at their core; it’s a straight-up production approach that suits these songs well.  

Afterglow finds Hunter taking more chances lyrically than on Outta My Mind, and while not every idea is a home run, pushing the envelope is almost always better than playing it safe. At the same time, it’s hard not to notice that Outta My Mind plus Afterglow might equal a pretty strong album; maybe next time? For now, Robert Hunter has a pair of potent EPs under his belt, full of sharp tunes performed with skill, integrity and—most important of all—genuine commitment and passion.

Rating: B+

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