Having recently turned 73, Shropshire’s Ian Hunter is not alone in artists that are experiencing a resurgence in both creativity and popularity during the autumn of their careers. What sets Hunter apart from his peers is that he goes about it with much less fuss and fanfare. After Shrunken Heads (2007) and Man Overboard (2009), When I’m President offers further proof that the Oswestry-born former Mott The Hoople frontman is on something of a roll with its insightful, bittersweet and often humorous take on dust bowl Americana, the Wild West and contemporary living.
Clever lyrical turns of phrase have long been a feature of Hunter’s songwriting skills and the eleven songs here are no exception, kicking off with the up-tempo honky-tonk bar room blues of “Comfortable (Flyin’ Scotsman)” with its chugging melody and irresistible hook. The tongue-in-cheek title track and “Just the Way You Look Tonight” show that Hunter remains an old school rocker at heart with the Rant Band plugging away on guitars, mandolins and chain-gang vocals. Plastic bags, trash TV and cellular phones provoke Hunter’s ire on the engaging and yet bleakly resigned “What For” with its emotive “there’s a big wide world waitin’ outside / you’re never gonna know if you don’t give it a try”. A sentimental lament for the Native Americans, “Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)” is both well conceived and sincere, contrasting with the raucous “Wild Bunch” which revisits the outlaw gangs of the Texas-Mexican border, taking its inspiration from the classic 1969 Western. Remaining disarmingly honest and bristling with a remarkable freshness, When I’m President is yet another personal triumph that ranks right alongside his very best work.
Ian Hunter may never get to be President but he is undoubtedly a National Treasure and it is about time he was duly recognised as such – the campaign starts here.
Rated 9 out of 10
Catch Ian Hunter & The Rant Band live at Birmingham Town Hall on October 20th.