Live Review

The Cosmic Groove of a Family Gemstone: The Hunts Play the Norva to a Huge, Eager Crowd

The Hunts on March 10, 2018

Josh and Jenni Hunt lead their family band in alternatively rousing and pensive songs at Norfolk's Norva. (Photo by Ron Wray)

They are an undiscovered gem. They are seven J’s that lead to an H. They are energy with music at its powerful core. They are beauty encased in the skin of a rose. They are a blend at the apex of rock and the roll. With their new release, Darlin’ Oh Darlin,’ the Hunts are in the chase again. They brought a formidable arsenal of sound to Norfolk’s Norva last night.

But, it has to be difficult. They are all family. That’s part of the beauty, but hard. They had to rent the hall for this show, a great risk they took on. They are too good to have to do that. (Perhaps, it was because it was Saturday night, but still ...)

Now at 17-25 years old (having played together most of their lives), some of the female band members have had babies of their own, which is making touring an issue. Mom’s acting as chief merch seller, publicist, and, I suspect, in other roles. However, they appeared mostly to fill the house, the merch line at the end was long, and the hall was full of enthusiasm and singalongs. While it was a young crowd, likely due to the still youthful band members being local, they have the music and lyrics to appeal to a more diverse audience.

Back to The Hunts being gemstones of the melodic. There seems to be a family cord that extends across the stage, causing musical communication and instrumental collaboration as if it’s in the shared blood. Drummer Jordan fills the raised drum stand with a rangy flair and sound, within which, as brother, Josh, said, “beats the heart of The Hunts.”  Jonathan is named as “composer,” while also wielding keyboards. Jamison is a hard-core but liquid mandolin and banjo player. Josh does lead singing (and guitar) with sensitivity, warmth, and propulsion, while leading the band with soft-spoken grace. A warm, clear voice delivers substantive, literate lyrics, while band members all sing to some degree.

Both sisters, Jessi and Jenni, play acoustics (violin, viola, and banjo) and swing and sway, with distinctive vocals, different from each other as well as in contrast to the male, voices. Justin plays bass, accordion, and other instruments, then gets down with a sister in rhythmic pounding of upended stage furniture. 

One shortcoming, to my ear, is some refrains and melodic chants repeating themselves too often, leading to sameness at times.

As I see it, the new record takes steps toward greater diversity. “Flowers and Jars” slowly and deliberately charts a narrative of personal emotion in a distinctive and engrossing way. And as always, the Hunts chart sound in ways I find distinctive and endearing. On stage, they take a wagon train of performance from pensive moments of discovery to rocking-out, resounding contextualization of the joyful and rhythmically driven.

And, the band’s lyrics deserve note, like these exceptional ones from “Ages,” which sound as if they are from older voices: And we fought with the devil all through the night/But when did we get so old/We’d search for ages/and the angel came with a holy light but when did we get so old/We’d search for ages/and the lame they danced and the dumb ones/sang but when did we get so old/and the blind they saw the light of day our feet/on the pavement growing old. (This song perhaps also reflects the group’s grounding in music of faith.)

And, another winning verse, this from “Lifting the Seas:” Well we went down/followed your rhythms/down to your doorpost/I asked for your company/Well we went up/up to the water/where I heard you laughing/And I saw the strangest thing/I saw waves lifting the sea/waving at you/but they don’t see me.

Originally, the group, from Chesapeake, Virginia, was The Hunt Family Fiddlers, and The Hunts sometimes still play with mom and dad, Sandy and Clint. I hope this was the last time the seven J’s – Jessi, Jenni, Josh, Jonathan, Jordan, Justin, and Jamison Hunt – will pay their own freight to provide a sound that is unique and fresh, that has a cosmic groove that keeps an ongoing, delicious fit and flavor.