Recorded in Nashville by Eric McConnell (Loretta Lynn & Todd Snider), Greg Hester’s Hustlers, Killers & Thieves evokes pure funk and soul music. Hester grew up in James Brown’s hometown of Augusta, Georgia, and these ten songs conjure sonic qualities of Hi Records, the JBs and STAX Records.
The De Vorzon/Chandler composition, “Down & Out In New York City”, opens the disc, which features a talented array of musicians such as Ivan Neville, Keith Jenkins, Fred Thomas, Danny Ray, Erik Hargrove, Fred Wesley, Eric McConnell, Spike Nealy and Shannon Pengelly. Wesley, Thomas, Ray and Jenkins all served as members of James Brown’s band.
Anyone from Saint Simons Island, Georgia, rejoices over Hester’s original “Proctor Lane” since the song refers to a soulful avenue on the barrier island with an R & B-flavored street soul. Another original, “Crazy Lovin”, contains an addictive beat that would surely make The Godfather of Soul proud as well as the rendition of James Brown’s song “It’s A New Day.
A centerpiece gem on Hustlers, Killers & Thieves emerges as Hester’s original “The Corner”. Hester’s soulful voice, a beat that matches the pulse, and an emotive guitar on this tune counts as pure magic. Ivan Neville’s fatback B-3 licks and the band’s deep pocket groove transport you to the other side of the tracks on “Pork Chops”. A Hester/Jenkins composition, “I Love Ya”, transcends musical borders…the beat, melody and message proves universal.
“Prezident”, an original number, could easily fit on Funkadelic’s album Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow. The James Brown song, “The Boss”, ends this disc with a hypnotic, foot-shuffling rhythm that serves as testimony to the fine talent of Greg Hester. Husters, Killers & Thieves sounds like the streets around ‘Soulsville’ during the midnight hour…