Hunter & the Bear

Polite applause and concession stand runs are the norm from arena crowds experiencing new young recording artists opening for venerable veterans. But that was not so when Hunter and the Bear warmed up for Eric Clapton’s recent UK tour. Not only was the upstart London-based act greeted with considerable enthusiasm, Clapton fans actually missed part of Slowhand’s set to score Hunter and the Bear’s music and to press the quartet’s flesh.

“It was amazing,” vocalist-guitarist Will Irvine recalled. “We went out in the hall between sets with our merchandise and I was stunned how long the queue was. I thought it was a line for the bathroom but I was wrong. It was for us. It was incredible.” Guitarist-vocalist Jimmy Hunter was just as taken aback. “Clapton fans missed the beginning of his show just to say hello and ask why they hadn’t heard of us,” Hunter said.

At that point Hunter and the Bear was just a year-old but the fresh group made an impression. Hunter and the Bear, which makes compelling melody- driven rock, sold hundreds of discs at the show. “It was encouraging because Clapton fans are music fans,” Hunter said. “They’re not into him because he’s sexy, even though at some point I’m sure he was.” Great point and that’s the common denominator between the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Hunter and the Bear. The latter is a throwback, which crafts an intoxicating blend of muscular folk-rock, which hits listeners in the gut. The icing on the cake is moving, manly harmonies by Irvine, Hunter, bassist Chris Clark and drummer Gareth Thompson.

The stirring single “Like a Runaway” is a powerful and hook-laden cut with imagery that screams dog days of summer. The tune features a commanding vocal by Irvine and a clean, compact but hard-hitting solo by Hunter.

The pretty “Wounded” is spare and catchy and is perhaps the deepest, most meaningful and vivid track in the band’s canon. Their vocal blend, which is like a sonic fingerprint, is unmistakable.

The band delivers deeply meaningful and visceral songs since they are aware of what they want and the act ignores trends.

“We aren’t trying to do what anybody else is doing because we want to be us,” Hunter said. “It’s all about computers. You can be really good at working a computer but you can’t play a guitar. We’re about working at our craft and I hope it shows.”

Hunter and the Bear has reached a new echelon with its latest release. The band is vulnerable yet strong. The act has upped its ante but Hunter and the Bear is still rising. The group’s potential is unlimited but the future is now for the next significant band to come out of the UK.

By Ed Condran