Hunter Stone is the next blues artist you need to see.
Hiding out at one of my favorite music digs recently, I was intrigued by the gritty, smoky power of a newcomer on the Boulder music scene. Originally from Massachusetts and freshly transplanted from the Asheville, NC area, Hunter Stone has been in Boulder a little more than six months. But don’t let his short stint here fool you. There is some skillful power behind this artist.
After road tripping here "with a friend in a van" (classic), Stone decided to stick around this mountain town. He’s played a few local shows and when I ask him what he likes best about Boulder’s music scene, he quips with a smile, “Hey I’m just glad people aren’t asking me to play ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ anymore.” Pulling down his ‘Nashville’ hat, he proceeds more seriously, saying that he loves the collective of artists in Boulder, some of whom he collaborates with regularly. On the first Wednesday of every month, you can find him at Vapor Distillery bouncing around song ideas with anyone who shows up. “I like the culture here,” he says. “People don’t just put you in the corner of the bar and ask for covers; they want you in the front and they want originals.”
After setting up for a full band behind him, Stone actually started his set off solo. Fingerpicking on a Guild M-20 (famously Nick Drake’s guitar of choice), Stone led his performance with gruff, whiskey-soaked vocals. His style feels bluesy- there are some obvious Southern influences happening- but there is also a raw and robust wail behind some of his vocals. There's even a slight post-grunge feel to this part of his set, though he tells me his most notable influences are Cream, The Allman Brothers, and Amos Lee. He has the singer-songwriter vibe when things get soft, but when his smoky voice raises, it echoes in your heartstrings with some major force.
After a short break, Stone plugged in with an electric guitar and tapped a kick and tambo combo à la Jim Herlihy of Augustus. Stone's vocals still held the lead here, but his percussion added depth that had the whole bar stomping along to his original tunes. My absolute favorite of the night was “Can’t Escape”. It’s crafted with moody verses, a strong, catchy chorus, and a hush in all the right places that makes the piece rise and fall with Stone’s smoldering roar. Take a listen for yourself here.
Stone ended the night with a band of drums, keys, and a trumpet. He moved from soulful singer-songwriter to melodic frontman with a sound melding delta tunings, ‘50s rock and roll, and an early White Stripes feel. With his bluesy roots still attached to the band's tone and the trumpet adding a sense of urgency to the beat, Stone and his band deftly moved through a solid set. You’d never know they’ve only been at this together for a month. With the crowd on their feet, my friend Zach turned to me and yelled, “If this isn’t a great entrance into the Boulder scene, then I don’t know what is.” Word.
Keep an eye on Hunter Stone’s upcoming events here.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.