Comin’ From Where I’m From – Anthony Hamilton (2003)

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“Comin’ From Where I’m From” is the second studio album released by Soul Singer/Songwriter Anthony Hamilton. His first release was in 1996 with the album “XTC” which has since gone out of print and it is this release from 2003 which was his first on a major label.

Hamilton hails from what is known as the ‘deep south’ in America and his music and even voice reflects his background. It is this background which is integral to this album as Hamilton possesses what you wouldn’t really consider a contemporary voice. He sounds like a man in his latter years who is reflecting on his life with a type of delivery which only that experience can produce.

But this old soul on this particular album was able to find a modern way to deliver his vocal and some of the songs are excellent. There are themes that perhaps are not universally accessible but he has a quality in telling a story.

The album begins with “Mama Knew Love”. The hip hop beat perhaps doesn’t give a good indication on how the set will eventually play out but it gives the listener a indication that this isn’t going to be some soul music throwback and that whilst retro in it’s ethos it is a fresh sounding album.

The lyrics on this song are very personal as Hamilton talks about his mother and how he is now going to be able to help her with his success as a singer. He explains what she has to go through to make ends meet.

Mama knew love like the back roads
Used to fall asleep daily in her work clothes
Mom swear you never have to worry again
Mama knew love like the back streets
Used to wipe pee just to make the end meet
Mom swear you never have to worry again

“Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens” is the second track and shows a more humorous side to Hamilton’s songwriting.as he tries to impress a girl with what little he has.

Musically the song has that southern American style guitar sound playing with the obvious relation with Country and Blues being evident in Hamilton’s style.

“Since I Seen’t You” is the first downbeat song on the album. This is a track that immediately perks my interest as Hamilton sounds more fragile with the way he delivers the lyrics. It’s a simple song essentially about love at first sight as he pours multiple compliments and comparisons on this woman.

“Charlene” is where Hamilton’s songwriting is at his best. He is a real storyteller and he sets the scene on this tune which again takes a lot from the southern roots that is is born out of. The lyrics are personal as he tells the tale of how the woman he loves has left him and he is asking her to come back. He is reflective and understands where things have gone wrong.

Woke up this morning found a letter that she wrote
She said she’s tired that I’m always on the road
To hard to swallow being alone
She needs someone at night that she can hold
She must have told me a thousand times before
Silent cries I use to ignore
God knows I love her
Didn’t mean to hurt her

It’s a song which is drenched in soul and Hamilton delivers this song in an outstanding way.

“I’m A Mess” really just carries on from “Charlene”. Hamilton is again dealing with loss of  loved one who has walked out. He is again reflected as he lists a number of what seems like trivial things despite the relationships break down.

I rather you slit me cross the throat/ so I can die
Instead of leaving/ no explanation as to why
You don’t want me no more

This track lacks what the previous one did as Hamilton doesn’t really sing too much of the song instead shouting far too much which isn’t a great sound considering his voice isn’t really equipped for the part as the shouty soul man.

The title track “Comin’ From Where I’m From” is next. Without a doubt it’s the stand out track on the album and in all honesty I am not sure Anthony Hamilton has ever recaptured the feeling created on this track in anything he has done since.

We all love a story about how someone has come up from the bottom and made it. It’s a classic story and Hamilton captures it perfectly.

“Better Days” is a beautiful track. Hamilton uses the upper register of his vocal as he sings most of the song in a falsetto. It’s a change of sound but works really well in this pretty ballad about love and not being without someone. It’s a song about devotion.

“Lucille” is my favourite song on the album. For me it’s a stunning song which is beautiful yet quite sad. Hamilton tells the story of a girl who is suffering domestic abuse by her new man. Hamilton sings so beautifully on this track I believe every word he is saying.

Again the song is simple in it’s composition but this simplistic style is harder hitting that it initially appears. A simple lyric in the bridge always gets me:

Used to love me now you want to leave me, right when I told you I love you

“Float” sees Hamilton break it down with the sexiest song on the album. This is Hamilton making the moves on a girl as he shows his ability to produce a more familiar R&B sound.

This song is sultry and deserves a place on any love making playlist.

Female vocalist LaToiya Williams joins Hamilton on the track “My First Love”. The song seems to have all the ingredients to be a great but never really goes anywhere which is a little disappointing.  Lyrically it is all a bit too tired for my liking.

“Chyna Black” starts off in a similar vein to that of “Lucille”. The acoustic feel for the first 55 seconds is a pleasent but the chorus that kicks in seems very messy and out of place on the track. Lyrics of someone being want he wants and what he needs seem as though they were added to the track because he couldn’t think of anything else which is a shame as the verses and bridge are actually quite listenable.

The final track on the set is “I Tried” which see’s Hamilton get back into that soulful blues sound which he is so comfortable on. He flows over the track effortlessly with his wonderful voice infecting your ears.

Hamilton sounds like a 70 year old man telling stories about the life he has led. It’s a way of singing like the great Bill Withers would gravitate toward with simple lyrics, great vocals and an engaging way to tell his story.

“Comin’ From Where I’m From” has been the height of Hamilton’s career so far and in all reality is likely to be the height he would reach. It’s an album which showcases an unusual voice for a popular music artist and some modern sounding production especially on the title track which gives the indication that Hamilton could sing any style of music and make a real go at it.

A solid album with three outstanding songs which for me puts Anthony Hamilton among the greatest soul singers of the last 25 years.

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