Charlie Hunter is well aware that you have to move on as a working musician.
The guitar virtuoso, who has worked with John Mayer, Christian McBride, among many other venerable recording artists, knows how to call an audible.
The inventive improvisor had plans to record with Silvana Estrada in 2018 but the young, talented Mexican vocalist’s visa was denied.
“It’s tricky with this administration but the reality is that it’s always been tricky for a foreigner if they’re not from Northern Europe,” Hunter said. “What’s crazy about this is she’s from Mexico, our neighboring country.”
But the show or the album had to go on and Hunter asked vocalist Lucy Woodward to replace Estrada. Woodward, who has sung with Pink Martini and Rod Stewart, decided to work with Hunter and they recorded their debut album “Music! Music! Music!” The eclectic project is comprised of 11 songs, which range from old school R&B (Ruth Brown’s “I Don’t Know”), seminal British invasion rock (The Animals’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”) and ’80s pop (Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Wishing Well.”)
“It’s across the board,” Woodward said while calling from Kentucky. “Nothing was calculated. We just went with songs that felt right. We just wanted great songs that Charlie could groove on. It was like, ‘Let’s try this and see what happens.’”
A huge reason to catch Hunter and Woodward when the tandem performs Tuesday at The Mill is to witness the gifted guitarist improvise. It’s a given that Hunter will perform in an extemporaneous manner. It works with the tracks from “Music! Music! Music!” since the songs are malleable and Hunter is a restless player, who can’t help but take songs in different directions.
“That’s what I do,” Hunter said. “The songs we chose to record can withstand a beating. Who knows how things will go down when we perform in Iowa? I love improvising. If you do it well and the crowd is with you then you can have some memorable moments. The crowd is a big part of it. When I’m up there I try to make this a community for everyone.”
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Fans can expect a humorous evening since the tandem loves to goof around when it comes to bantering back and forth. When asked why Hunter decided to partner with Woodward, he laughed.
“The requirement to be in this (group) is that you must withstand 15-hour drives between gigs,” Hunter said. “Lucy doesn’t bat an eye when it comes to the long-distance driving we do. We’re driving from Ohio to Texas. I feel like a trucker. As a musician I have no choice but to travel the way we do. It’s the only way we can make a living. Touring enables us to afford to record these songs.”
The playful Woodward particularly enjoys their version of “Wishing Well” since it’s the lone song on the album that she grew up with while coming of age during the ’80s in New York.
“I’m a total ’80s kid and when we’re thinking about songs from that era, when Janet Jackson was everything, we were thinking about what would work,” Woodward said. “I loved Terence Trent D’Arby and ‘Wishing Well.’ The rhythm is easy and the melody is really good and it’s such a funky song. When we started playing that song, it just happened for us.”
Will Hunter and Woodward create another album and support it with a tour?
“I would like to but it all depends on climate change,” Hunter said joking. “I’m just going to keep making music that I like and hope that the audience likes it as well. Once you have that down then you’re in a good place. When you’re making or playing music that you only like, well, then you’re screwed. But for me it’s been so far, so good.”