Revival (EP)

Robert Hunter

Independent release, 2018

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Usually backstory functions as fuel for art—except when backstory and art are one and the same. 

Robert Hunter was an aspiring singer-songwriter with a pair of well-received EPs (Outta My Mind and Afterglow) under his belt and a feeling he might be on the edge of a breakthrough when he and his wife Becky received devastating news: at just 28, she had an aggressive and unusually hard-to-treat form of cancer. They spent a lot of time over the ensuing months of treatments talking about the future.

At Becky’s urging, they seized the moment. Hunter set about finishing and publishing his debut novel Relapse, finishing and issuing his third EP Revival, and setting off on the now yearlong “Relapse and Revival” tour, which has seen him giving readings and playing tunes solo acoustic in bookstores all across the country. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

All across the country, that he’s touring in a motorhome. With Becky. Who’s now in remission. So, yeah, backstory and art are pretty much inextricable in this case.

Like the two EPs that preceded it, Revival features five songs, all strong alt-rock numbers featuring ringing electric leads over propulsive acoustic rhythm guitar and washes of warm Hammond organ inside a classicist, radio-friendly approach. Opener “Noise” showcases one of Hunter’s duskier lead vocals, adding a bit of Mellencamp to his more typical ’90s alt-rock Matchbox Twenty sound (the latter point of reference feeling somewhat inevitable given that Hunter is Rob Thomas’s long-lost vocal twin brother). Hooky and immediately appealing, the lyric feels autobiographical, getting the band together to hit the road because “We’re good at the noise.”

“Gravity Hill” is a more somber number with violin adding pathos as Hunter tries to figure out what everything that’s happened all means. Hunter gets a steady flow going on the verses, not quite rapping but pushing the velocity of his words even as the music holds a slow, steady tension behind him. “Too close to call, relapse or revival” he declares while asking “Did I get lost because I just can’t read the signs?”

“Love Letters” is bigger and bolder, with a surging push and pull to the choruses, building toward this EP’s crescendo, the propulsive anthem “High Hopes.” “Here we go, so fast and slow / Where this all ends, nobody knows” sings Hunter as a driving guitar figure urges him onward. “Life is just a big dream / But you were my first high hope” he declares, the context making his subject obvious as the chorus hook sinks in deep. “Dislocated” winds things back down with a gentler, airier, more introspective number, a moment of clarity after a major bender.

Insert here if you will all due props to the players and producer who contributed to this EP; I’d love to name them, but it seems the rush to get this EP out left us with nothing more than song names and run times to go on. Like Afterglow before it, Revival features a rich full-band sound with crisp edges and plenty of space and dimension, another impressive collection from the pen and voice of resilient troubadour Robert Hunter.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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