While he’s still got some way to go before he reaches the dizzy heights of Blur, James Hunter is fast becoming Colchester’s next big musical export.

After he wrote and recorded his debut album People Gonna Talk, back in 2006, they did exactly that and his position as one of the most successful bluesmen this country has ever produced was reinforced further when he signed to Gabriel Roth’s esteemed New York label, Daptones.

Gabriel Roth is perhaps better known as Bosco Mann, bandleader and songwriter for legendary funk/soul group, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

As a recording engineer and producer, Gabriel has won two Grammy awards, the first in 2008 for Amy Winehouse’s acclaimed Back to Black album, and then, in 2012, for recording Booker T. Jones’ The Road From Memphis.

So when Gabriel approached James to record his fourth album, Hold On!, the Colchester bluesman didn’t hesitate.

“He’s into the same stuff as me, which is always a good start,” James jokes. “The great thing about working with Gabe Roth is that he can get our tunes on tape exactly the way I heard them in my head when I was writing them . It’s a rare thing when a producer knows what you’re going for before you’ve told him.

“A good indication of this kind of empathy is he’ll dig a record out – and he’s got a few – and say, ‘You’ll like this’, and be right every time. Finally, working with someone who gets what you’re about is so refreshing.”

Which is why James was delighted to make the trip back to Penrose Recorders (Daptone West), near Gabriel’s home in Riverside, California, to record his latest album, Whatever It Takes.

“It’s an incredible place to make a record,” he tells me, “especially if you like Mexican food. There’s a cracking place just round the corner.

“In terms of making the record, this one was quite a quick turn around. I didn’t have much time to write the songs but I actually quite liked that. I naturally went a bit auto pilot and they literally flowed out, which was very satisfying.”

It’s been suggested that most of the album is inspired by his wife Jessie, who James met while playing a gig in New York.

“The title track is dedicated to her,” James adds, “but I wouldn’t say the whole record is about her. She’s obviously a really important part of my life and perhaps subconsciously that’s seeped into some of the songs but there’s wasn’t any plan on my part to make a record like that.”

And it’s that very natural, self effacing, talent that has won James fans all over the world.

Born and raised in Colchester, but now living in Brighton, the singer/songwriter left school in 1979 at 16 and got a job at a furniture store.

“Then I went to work for British Rail,” he says, “eventually as a signals maintenance assistant. I suppose this is when I came to look at music as some sort of alternative to the railways. I certainly didn’t want to work for British Rail for the rest of my life.”

By 1986 he was fronting Howlin’ Wilf (a tribute to Howlin’ Wolf, another Mississippi blues singer) and the Vee-Jays, had appeared on Channel Four’s The Tube and was touring the UK and Europe.

Eventually, Howlin’ Wilf and the Vee-jays turned into James Hunter, he moved to Camden and, in 2003, was given the opportunity to make People Gonna Talk.

By the year’s end, People Gonna Talk was among the Top Ten ‘Best Albums of 2006’. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album and James himself was nominated as Best New/Emerging Artist in the annual Americana Music Awards.

“When I started out,” he says, “I just wanted to make enough money to support myself, and after that debut solo album, I definitely did. But I have a family to support. It would be great if I could work just when I wanted to but there are bills to pay.”

Jetting off to Los Angeles for two weeks to record an album seems like quite nice work to me.

“In a couple of weeks,” he replies, “I’m back in the States for most of February touring the album and yes, that’s a pretty cool thing to do to. Don’t get me wrong I know I’m a lucky guy.

Whatever It Takes will be released internationally this Friday, February 2.

For more information go to jameshuntermusic.com