Samuel Lowry Hunt was born in December 1984 in Cedartown, Georgia, a historic city that old school country fans may recall immortalised by Waylon Jennings in a 1971 album and song. A graduate from University of Alabama (he’s a smart cookie who majored in philosophy and economics) Sam started playing in local bars, accompanied by his acoustic and was so evidently talented that he was persuaded to head for Nashville and grab a publishing deal. Having signed to MCA Nashville Sam was determined to introduce his love of R&B, beat boxing and elements of rap production into his own idiosyncratic brand of country. He picked up his stylistic quirks from listening to the radio rather than taking a crash course in album buying and it’s that commercial edge that keeps him fresh. Kenny Chesney cut “Come Over” and Keith Urban was all over Hunt’s strong narrative song “Cop Car”. By autumn of 2104 he was ready to release his own stuff and Montevallo emerged to glittering reviews. Zach Lowry and the talented Shane McNally mentored the sessions but Sam Hunt held centre stage also accompanying his vocals with guitars, ganjo and piano. Other specialists who appear include Ilya Toshinsky, the great Chad Cromwell (Neil Young, Mark Knopfler, Joe Walsh) on drums and Scotty Sanders on the pedal steel. It’s a perfect blend.
Hunt and his cohorts concentrated on the techniques of harmony vocals and paid heed to the mixing process, giving the songs a sound that is both classic and contemporary. For a glimpse into Sam’s recent past try “Raised On It” which he released independently in 2013 and contrast that with “Leave the Night On” which went platinum and really made Sam’s name, establishing him as a marquee signing. The lovely ballad “Take Your Time” also has sparkling production while “House Party” made it three #1’s in a row. The excellent “Break Up in a Small Town” proved Sam could write deep material and still sell masses of digital download hits but it’s the most recent single, “Make You Miss Me” that we’re hoping will make it five in a row. That track has already notched over 11 million views and is the man’s most potent fusion of country and R&B to date. Check out the home recording on Vimeo to see how he works best, plucking out plangent piano chords and delivering the raw emotion that sets him apart from the herd. We also love the busked out version of “Vandelizer” and the intimate work in progress snapshot from the legendary Quad Studios in Nashville. Further proof of his star qualities can be seen in the Live From Spotify, NYC sessions.
A summer of 2016 tour takes Sam Hunt out to the fields and stadia of Anmerica, including a notable date at the MetLife venue in East Rutherford, NJ during the height of August. So you should know him by now and remember the name. He is a major discovery.
Words: Max Bell
A quarterback-turned-country songwriter-turned-country star, Sam Hunt never makes apologies for his inherent bro-ness on his 2014 debut Montevallo. He's a laid-back, handsome, well-adjusted dude who makes music that sounds like he looks: friendly, ingratiating, relaxed, and perhaps just a little bit non-descript. Montevallo deliberately sounds like other guys next door, sometimes evoking memories of Jason Aldean (he's as comfortable with the slow-burning electronic rhythms of "Break Up in a Small Town" as Aldean is on "Burnin' It Down"), sometimes Keith Urban (Hunt does his own version of "Cop Car," previously a hit for Urban), sometimes Jake Owen ("Raised on It" is a dead ringer for "Barefoot Blue Jean Night"). Hunt is unabashedly a modern guy and his taste for busy electronic arrangements and facility with fleet-footed rhythms distinguish him from the pack of modern country bros: it's what gives the nocturnal urban sparkle of the hit "Leave the Light On" a lift, it's what gives "Single for the Summer" its sheen, it's what gives "Ex to See" a bit of dense menace. These electronic flourishes are notable but they're not the anchor of Montevallo, nor is Hunt's amiable presence. What grounds the album is his clean, commercial songwriting, heavy on hooks but also sturdily constructed. Ultimately, Hunt's ability to fuse his classical construction with modern flair and pass it off as no big thing is what makes his debut something more than just another album from the bro next door.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Sam Hunt released the "acoustic mixtape" -- not quite a demo, not quite a party; it's a term borrowed from hip-hop and spun into the realm of country -- Between the Pines in 2013, issuing it as a free download on his website. It helped set up his 2014 debut Montevallo and, a year after the release of that album, Warner did a full digital reissue of Between the Pines, shuffling the sequencing and adding three new songs. Noteworthy are covers of Keith Urban's "Cop Car" and Kenny Chesney's "Come Over," songs that underscore Hunt's mainstream influences, but what's most interesting about this "acoustic mixtape" is how, even without the shiny veneer of Shane McAnally's studio production, Hunt's lithe soul and hip-hop influences are evident, both in the drum loops and his fleet cadences. That's what makes Between the Pines worth a listen for Hunt fans who don't number themselves among his hardcore.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine