Hucknall tells Billboard that he's known the song all his life, beginning with Redding's version, but he also has an affinity for later covers, including from the Rolling Stones.
"The song never seemed to go away and I was reminded of it over the years by covers of it from the likes of Candi Staton and the Stones," he says. "I guess its power and universal appeal lies in the simplicity of its message. What I like about our version is the modern production Andy Wright has given it and the driving rhythm which makes it great to sing and to perform live."
"American Soul" was produced by Wright at Hucknall's own studio and is comprised of 12 tracks. He says the inspiration and concept for the album was simple.
"I wanted to record versions of some of my favorite songs that I’d been brought up on and had been listening to since the age of 5 or 6," he says. "I realized that just about all those songs were by African Americans and I wanted to explore the incredible story of that genre which had influenced my life and career so profoundly. Quite a simple concept really; sometimes the best ideas are the simple ones.
Before he recorded the album, Hucknall embarked on a series of projects, including a stint fronting the Faces on a recent tour, and singing in side projects for Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts as well as ex-Stones bassist Bill Wyman in his own R&B project.
"Around that time I got used to singing more in that raspy R&B style and singing to that kind of beat live for a while made me realize how much I love singing that way," he says.
With Simply Red, which was active from 1985-2010, Hucknall charted seven songs on the Billboard Hot 100, including two No. 1s: "Holding Back the Years" and "If You Don't Know Me By Now." They also had a surprising 15 hits on the Dance/Club Plays Songs chart, with three of them reaching No. 1. As a solo artist, Hucknall has charted a No. 9 hit on our Smooth Jazz Songs chart ("Farther Up the Road," 2008).
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article referred to "American Soul" as Hucknall's debut solo album. However, in 2008 he released "Tribute to Bobby," a collection of Bobby Bland songs, in the U.K.