Look What's Growing in Spanish Harlem

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Tuesday's Pick

  • Song: "A Rose in Spanish Harlem"
  • Artist: The Harlem Experiment with James Hunter
  • CD: The Harlem Experiment
  • Genre: Pop-Rock
James Hunter 300

Working with The Harlem Experiment, British singer James Hunter conjures up a timeless cover. courtesy of James Hunter hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of James Hunter

The album called The Harlem Experiment lives up to its name, with a sometimes-unexpected match of artists and songs to evoke the musical hotbed of New York's famously diverse neighborhood. But perhaps its biggest experiment of all was taking a cute pop tune from the '60s called "Spanish Harlem" and asking a white British singer to perform it, with only a 1932 vintage guitar as backup.

The experiment is a smashing success. Grammy-nominated James Hunter has one of those sweet and dreamy voices (to borrow adjectives from the song) that seem to grow in Great Britain. He sounds as if Van Morrison were his godfather, and he plays guitar with a gentle touch. When he sings the familiar lyric, Hunter sounds so unaffected and charming, it's easy to imagine him sitting on the stoop of a Harlem brownstone, strumming his acoustic guitar and getting ready to "pick that rose and watch her as she grows in my garden."

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This column originally ran on Dec. 18, 2007.

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