Anthony Hamilton: Soulife

These days in soul music the women outnumber the men although strong musicians like Hamilton make up for the lack of numbers with tough releases like this one. Masters from his time at the Soulife label between ’99-01 were unearthed and remixed resulting in more of Hamilton’s warm-brandy feeling soul.

The gospel blues in his voice has the unassumed character of a country singer and reminders of Bobby Womack. Fools may have missed him because in the corporate backed beautiful people marketing vision the absence of everyone’s heartthrob looks, shiny thing cheerleading, and straight-up begging does not an R and B star make.

Hamilton’s earnest crooning creates the feeling of something familiar and easy to connect to because he doesn’t reinvent soul but grabs hold of the tradition and makes you hear his personal light within it. ” I Used To Love Someone” is moderate paced dancing for the brokenhearted among beautiful Spanish guitar strums, rhythm, and Hamilton singing like a man remembering a fallen romance. Sentiment of this kind where lovers battle to reach understanding gives the music a sullen longing. “I Cry” records the lump in Hamilton’s throat that has the solemn moans that flashback Bill Withers.

A rotating carousel beat carrying sweet subtle chimes and dreamy guitar emulates the sound of tears. Songs with Macy Gray and Sunshine Anderson are funny and sensual. “Love And War” starts its mild funk with a country rock guitar moving throughout the song’s arrangement. When they trade turns singing you can’t help but laugh when Hamilton asks “Why you want to hurt me?” and Macy replies in her just woke-up in the morning rasp “I tried to hurt because you tried to play me out.” Love gets better with “Last Night” where Anderson’s earthy vixen mode alto, tender vibe playing and male balladeer back-up singers join Hamilton’s love mutters in a grinding love romp.

Masculinity of the take-home-to-your-mother type is what you get with Hamilton because he’s humble, honest, respectful and openly emotional. These qualities are what get him labeled “neo-soul” which is term that could only ultimately mean soul music after hip-hop. His style goes back to early soul where men weren’t afraid to sensitively express their feelings and it can be kind of strange when groups like Pretty Ricky are telling you to “Grind With Me.”

Age is the assumption but Hamilton has peers in the over-25 set including Eric Benet, Rahsaan Patterson and Dwele who live in the post-Prince Stevie Wonder world of R and B. “Icing On The Cake” is the sum of his creative toil at this time casting mild trance of falsetto and fine bass figures in blue. More than flirtation and much closer to the seduction Hamilton promises his potential date that she is his only desire. And this is why listening to this man from North Carolina is one of the genuine post Luther R and B love experiences.

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