Don’t believe what you hear: Soul is not dead. It may have been down, but never out. Sure, the neo-soulsters may have stepped on the scene and made soul seem obsolete, but there is one man keeping it in the consciousness of the world right now, and his name isn’t John Legend. It’s Anthony Hamilton, who reminds us all that soul is more than a memory.
Putting in work since 1993, Anthony Hamilton had to pay his dues before he got his shot in the limelight. Hamilton had two albums – XTC (supposed to be released in 1995) and Soulife, which comprises songs written between 1999 and 2001 – never received the attention they deserved due to the collapse and subsequent political games of the labels he signed to. Soulife Records dissolved while he was on D’Angelo’s highly touted Voodoo Tour, and Hamilton returned home to learn that his album had been shelved. But he regrouped and, in 2003, released Comin’ Where I’m From on So-So Def Records. That album was good but at times inconsistent, but the strength of the title track helped Hamilton build his name.
Ain’t Nobody Worryin’, a follow-up to Comin’ From Where I’m From, picks up the slack of his previous effort and shows growth and maturity from the Charlotte, North Carolina native. From the album cover, to the production, to the raw emotion, this album oozes soul. It seeps out of every artistic nook, cranny and crack. It demands that the listener feel what Hamilton feels, which is what any artist in this genre strives for.
From opener “Where Did It Go Wrong,” this album serves notice that it warrants more than a casual listen. It’s heavy. The plodding bass kick, the deep horns, the wah-wah of the guitar: each hits you deep in the stomach and never lets up. With “The Truth,” Hamilton pulls at the heartstrings with his vocal stylings. In his lyrical attempt to woo the object of his affection, Hamilton croons that “the love is the truth,” showing an earnest side that we so rarely see from today’s R&B icons. Hamilton returns to the gritty with “The Preacher’s Daughter,” featuring an unorthodox song structure with a two-minute instrumental interlude where Hamilton occasionally chimes in with a passion that is reminiscent of Otis Redding’s in his prime. And that’s not the only artist Hamilton brings to mind. “Change Your World” brings about memories of Marvin Gaye; “Never Love Again,” the Isley Brothers.
Anthony Hamilton is pop music’s worst nightmare: He avoids the clean, cookie-cutter sound, embraces complexity, and refuses to adapt his songwriting to sound “hip.” That is why he, despite what the critics say, can never be considered R&B, neo-soul, or a hip-hop-influenced combination. He is soul.