Ian Rankin once described a John Hunt blues set like 'Seasick Steve in a science lab.' It's hard to articulate how perfect this description is for Hunt, who comes off like kind of a mad, wandering blues genius. With a sleeveless white undershirt and white straw fedora, Hunt plays his set on two custom guitars. One is built on top of a still-functioning radio, and the other is constructed from the remains of previously deceased guitars, complete with built in mic grip and tone controls. It doesn't take long for the audience to be completely enthralled by the personality of this mysterious blues man.
Just by looking at Hunt, one cannot help but believe that his life is full of unique stories. Indeed, his original songs cover such terrain as his seventy-three year old uncle's secret wedding, the romance of living in mobile homes, and the theft of his rusted out Rolls-Royce. Although unable to play the whole song due to time constraints, his closing song about the tragedy and betrayal of unsuccessful rock musicians selling insurance speaks with an insistence on authenticity.
Hunt completely embodies the image of the wandering blues man which captivates fans of early blues work from pioneers such as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf. His style has the same foot stamping, slide-centric, jangling homemade feel which gives those classic musicians their emotional resonance. Tonal polish is forsaken for a more raw and rough-cut sound. Even in the 'swing' songs in the set, covers of songs like Frank Sinatra classic 'I've got you under my skin,' there is that same familiar guitar tone. What’s more, Hunt is the only performer I've seen who has come with a 7" vinyl record to sell at his merch table. He seems committed to the unpolished homegrown sincerity of blues as it started out, which is refreshing if it can be pulled off, and Hunt pulls it off brilliantly.
I dare say that there is no more inventive, unique and soulful performer of blues at the Fringe, especially when it comes to twelve-bar blues. The covers he plays are, everyone of them, brilliantly performed. His own lyricism can veer towards being slightly repetitive, but his guitar play and his dark, soulful voice are far too affecting to complain. For even passing fans of the blues, Hunt's Four O'Clock Afternoon Blues and Swing is a necessary addition to the schedule.