|"Ain't Nobody Worrying": Anthony Hamilton
By Craig Chapman
I'm gonna start my hard-sell early here: the
reason YOU should listen to the man is
because he offers real musicianship with no
gimmicks. He represents everything right
about soul music-and by soul music I don't
mean music made by Black folks. I mean music
that stimulates the mind and the spirit. Skin
color ain't got nothing to do with it.
Hamilton's music, like that tasty plate you got from your last visit to
Mom's crib, or that mind-blowing sex you had the other night, comes
from the heart as much (if not more) than the hands or the loins.
Not many musical happenings have pleased me more in recent years
than Hamilton's ascension. A victim of several sour label deals, his
debut album, "Comin' From Where I'm From" was released in fall 2003
and seemed to be destined for the same place critically
acclaimed/commercially ignored soul artists like Meshell Ndegeocello
reside. By some stroke of luck, word of mouth, and some stellar live
shows 1.5 million copies of "Comin'" passed through cash registers.
Of course, this success worried me to a degree. Would Hamilton stay
true to his muse and deliver the goods the second time around? Or
would he switch gears and make a shiny, flossy contempo-R&B
record, filled with guest appearances by the many artists he's helped
out-a list that ranges from Jonny Lang to Nick Cannon.
Time will tell if "Ain't Nobody Worryin'" stands up to repeated listens
the way "Comin'" did. What I do gather, is this: it's a stellar album.
It easily ranks with John Legend's "Get Lifted" and Stevie Wonder's
"A Time 2 Love" as one of the best R&B albums of 2005.
"Worryin'" follows a simple formula: a great vocalist plus great songs
equals great music. Hamilton's honey-roasted voice is a pleasure
even when the songs are fairly standard. When Hamilton injects his
own personality into the songs, the results are often spellbinding.
One thing that factors in heavily on this album is religion. While
"Comin'" had more than it's share of religious references, "Worryin'"
contains several tracks that could be taken as straight gospel music.
Of course, Hamilton's grainy drawl is perfect for testifyin', and he
takes you to church on tracks like "Pass Me Over". This beautiful
ballad is sung so beautifully, and with so much feeling, it brought
tears to my eyes. "Everybody" carries the same message over a
lighter groove. It's the strangest left turn on this album-Hamilton
sings over a bass-heavy reggae track that sounds like something
Toots & The Maytals cooked up in 1975.
On the opposite spiritual side of things, there's "Preacher's
Daughter", the story of a girl who turns to a life of crime. Trying to
look for a way out, she turns to her pastor father, only to be ignored
because her father's too busy "saving all the other souls". It's a
dramatic piece that will call to mind songs like Curtis Mayfield's
"Superfly" and "Freddie's Dead". The playful "Sista Big Bones" is a
lighthearted tribute to all the big girls out there, with a vibe that
suggests Stevie's "Superstition", while "Change Your World" has a
big-band, big-production Seventies flavor (think Marvin Gaye "Distant
Lover") thanks to production from James Poyser and ?uestlove from
The production here is top notch, and what you wouldn't expect if you
didn't check the liners is that Mark Batson, who co-piloted the
majority of "Comin'" (and who also produced the excellent recent
Dave Matthews Band CD) only mans the controls for about half the
tracks. Hamilton brought in a couple of "bigger" names (Tony Toni
Tone's Raphael Saadiq is behind the boards for the socially aware
title track, while neo-soul stalwarts Dre & Vidal also make an
appearance), but the album, unlike so many other multi-producer
jobs, remains cohesive.
Music samples & more available at: www.anthonyhamilton.com