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The hunt for perfection 

New Grooves

"It's time to throw this baby out in the water and see if it can swim," said Van Hunt during a recent show at Atlanta's 10 High Club. A six-piece band surrounded the singer, as did several dozen fans who, despite less than a week's notice for the show, gathered in the darkly lit basement to watch. He immediately launched into "If I Take You Home," the opening track from his second album on Capitol Records, On the Jungle Floor, released last Tuesday. "Let me take you home," he sang to the ecstatic audience. "I'll write your name in a song."

Van Hunt's 2004 self-titled album drew a three-and-half-star review from Rolling Stone (which simply stated "the bar has been raised"), and a 2006 Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. Last month, he performed at this year's Grammy ceremony alongside Joss Stone and Steven Tyler, paying tribute to Sly Stone. So what was he doing at a small club?

"I'm a stickler for detail," Van Hunt explained prior to the gig. A former Atlanta resident, he now lives in Los Angeles. But he returned to the ATL six months ago to finish recording On the Jungle Floor, rehearse his band and prepare for a series of tours. He used the 10 High Club show, as well as a concert at the Drunken Unicorn a few days later, as warm-up gigs to help work out the kinks. He took the performances seriously. "Playing these shows is [the] equivalent of playing at [Atlanta's] Variety Playhouse," he said.

Back at the 10 High Club, Van Hunt and his band launched into "Dust," as people danced and cheered around him. It was like that for an hour, as the group alternated familiar numbers from his debut ("Seconds of Pleasure," "Down Here in Hell (With You)") with new joints ("Being a Girl," "Ride, Ride, Ride"). They also riffed on the Waitresses' "I Know What Boys Like" and Prince's "Joy in Repetition." The fans ate it all up.

Van Hunt's On the Jungle Floor (Capitol) is out now.

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