Michael Hunter is one of those musicians who can do everything, and you’d kinda hate him for it if he weren’t such a jovial, unassuming person on top of it all. On his first solo album, Hunter wrote, sang and played just about everything, from the piano-and-violin overture that opens the album to the throttling rock drums on “Embers” and the rockabilly guitar on “2nd Smartest Monkey.”
Connecticut native Michael Hunter has been in New York City for a couple of years, paying his rent with musician-for-hire work ranging from drumming with metal bands to fiddling with an Americana group, from piano accompaniment with improv theater groups to orchestrating string arrangements in recording studios. But his own album, A Chance To Shine, has been in the works much longer, dating back to his days as a music composition student at Cornell University and several years playing in various upstate New York bands. It’s an album about moving up and moving on, about leaving your small, comfortable life to roll the dice on building a bigger one.
They’re familiar aspirations, especially in New York, where half of all people who want to be somebody wind up. But Hunter distinguishes himself from the plethora of wide-eyed strummers with his impressive instrumental skills and varied songwriting styles. The classically trained violinist decorates many of the 13 tracks on A Chance To Shine with string flourishes, even using it as a majestic lead instrument on “Top To Bottom” and the slow-building “Burn Me Up.” And on guitar, bass, piano, drums, and vocals, Hunter shows he can tackle everything from delicate finger picking to driving rock riffs to the contemplative, Impressionist-style piano lead on “Take Me Back.”
The only sounds on the album Hunter didn’t make are singer Nicole Weiss’s accompaniment on “Burn Me Up” and “2nd Smartest Monkey,” and the guitar and bass on “Waking Dream,” a holdover song from a past group, where he’s accompanied by former bandmates Wade Varano on guitar and Michael Wu on bass. The album was produced by another former bandmate, Steven Goldman, at Four Legs Records studio in the Hudson Valley, and is now available online for download at Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby, and Bandcamp.