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Offbeat Magazine

While the reggae scene in New Orleans has ebbed and flowed over several decades, guitarist and singer/songwriter Ben E. Hunter has been a stalwart leader since its early years. His latest album, Soul Avenger, is a twelve-song collection that highlights the hallmarks of his long career—powerful songs, righteous conviction, and great production values.

As the leader of Crucial Roots and Plantation Posse, Hunter had a high profile in the city prior to a ten-year hiatus for personal reasons. He was a major figure on the fertile Frenchmen Street scene of the 1990s and appeared on the cover of the June 1994 issue of OffBeat magazine. In addition to recording in Jamaica, Hunter was part of the Bob Marley Festival Tour for five years and played at the Reggae Sunsplash festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

His latest release is the third is a series of recordings he has dubbed “New Orleans Afro-Caribbean Folk Music.” Drawing from local traditions and his deep roots in conscious music, the songs lean heavily towards reggae, but other elements creep in lyrically and instrumentally upon repeated listening.

The call-and-response vocals, led by the outstanding Suzanne Couch, especially on one of the album’s centerpieces, “Big Easy,” reflect both the Black Indian tradition as well as classic dub reggae. “Take Me In Your Arms” percolates with an uptempo beat, a scintillating groove and an irresistible repeating guitar refrain. The snare drum at the start of “Shake Baby” could lead off any brass band tune.

The album features two covers, and both reflect Hunter’s deep understanding of songwriting conventions. Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” turns into a slow syncopated funk workout and Bertram Saulter’s harmonica grounds Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” while Hunter’s plaintive vocals allow him to make the song his own.

With Soul Avenger, Hunter continues to solidify his place in the New Orleans musical pantheon of musicians not tied to the limited genres that define the city across the world.

—Jay Mazza


May 31, 2021​

New Orleans Reggae King Ben E. Hunter Paints Vivid Musical Portraits of the Big Easy and Jamrock with New Album “Soul Avenger”

New Orleans—Acclaimed NOLA musical artist Ben E. Hunter brings New Orleans and Jamaica together to release his most iconic studio album, entitled “Soul Avenger,” a fusion of authentic delta blues, second line, and roots rock reggae.

Hunter, aka the Black Troubadour, has defined the sound - New Orleans Afro-Caribbean Reggae.

Produced by Brian and Wayne Jobson with Neil Case (Bass over Babylon) who also masterfully engineered the album, alongside the late Barry O’Hare, “Soul Avenger” is a visionary, rhythm-driven, and poetic celebration of two idioms, New Orleans Afro-American roots music and Jamaican roots music.

“New Orleans music culture greatly influenced Jamaican music through NOLA radio stations that reached Jamaican shores in the 40s, 50s, and 60s,” said Hunter. “Jamaica heard artists like Fats Domino with Big Dave Bartholomew coming in waves across the Caribbean. Now we integrate as one.”

All songs on “Soul Avenger” were written by Hunter, with the exception of buoyant covers of Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” and Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”

Like Peter Tosh, Hunter is a man from the past, living in the present, walking in the future. A mystic man. An intergalactic storyteller who interprets his lyric through his reedy, syncopated tenor. A Truth Teller. A Soul Avenger.

Hunter hits you with the first licks of the title track “Soul Avenger,” burning fire upon Babylon.

“Hey man look what’s happening in the streets today/violence homeless and poverty/the youth dem are dashed on the tops of every street...”

Hunter’s guided tour of reggae-inspired New Orleans continues with one drop, Rastafari driven tracks such as “The Big Easy” “War and Lies” and “Glad to See You.”

Inspired by local headlines, “Genevieve” and its accompanying dub tell the story of a New Orleans tax worker who was found murdered in her own home after exposing fraudulent practices in New Orleans.

After the struggle comes redemption. Lovers tracks “Jet Black Love” “All I Live For” and “Take Me in Your Arms” evoke memories of the days when the lone troubadour, on acoustic guitar, serenaded tourists on the sidewalks of the French Quarter.

“Shake Baby” puts the “soul” in “Soul Avenger.” The song’s undulating beat is derived from NOLA bounce culture, Afro-Haitian drums, and tremble, layered with seductive vocals by the late Suzanne Couch.

Oooh Nah Nay! One more time! After redemption comes the payoff, rapture. Through his universal reggae anthem “Love Last Stand,” Hunter delivers a message of cooperation, unity, and strength in humanity.

Track List:

  1. Soul Avenger

  2. Jet Black Love

  3. The Big Easy

  4. War and Lies

  5. Genevieve

  6. All I Live For

  7. Shake Baby

  8. Sunshine Superman

  9. Glad to See You

  10. Heart of Gold

  11. Take Me in Your Arms

  12. Love Last Stand

About Ben E. Hunter

Ben E. Hunter has recorded three studio albums in this pioneering new New Orleans genre: "Traveler," "The Nature of Things” and "Break out Bold." Raised in the 7th Ward, Hunter is most known for his legendary reggae performance and recording history in New Orleans as a regular and ultimately trend-setting performer at Café Brazil on Frenchmen St. for more than a decade prior to Katrina, he was the creator and bandleader for both, “Ben Hunter & The Plantation Posse” and “Ben Hunter & Crucial Roots,” producing albums including “Voodoo Reggae,” “Reality Check,” “Soul Avenger Live Intergalactic” and “A Freedom Song.” In the Big Easy, Hunter has headlined at Tipitina's, House of Blues, Snug Harbor, Essence Music Fest, and performed at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for eight consecutive years. Nationally and internationally, he performed as one of the headliners for the Bob Marley Festival Tour for five years, and at Reggae Sun Splash in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

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