Album review: Anthony Hamilton's 'Back to Love'
In a sea of male singers who sound like yelping seal pups, Anthony Hamilton’s gritty emotiveness has the gravitas of weathered adulthood. On his fourth CD, “Back to Love,” he continues lapping the pack.
“Pray for Me,” a plea for his woman to take him back, channels gospel intensity without succumbing to “American Idol”-style dramatics. Soul icon Bobby Womack is evoked on the Southern-fried, harmonica and handclaps-driven “Mad.” Maybe the best example of the singer-songwriter’s range is the thematic contrast between smoldering boudoir track “I’ll Wait (To Fall in Love),” and “Baby Girl,” whose moving acknowledgment of women battling countless life obstacles suggests Tupac’s “Keep Ya Head Up” in ballad form.
When you listen to Hamilton’s songs, all of which he co-writes, you don’t feel as though you’re merely sifting through persona-building product; his lyrics are story- and character-driven in the tradition of classic R&B. One of the greatest strengths of “Back to Love” is its roster of producers, including James Poyser (the Roots; Erykah Badu), Salaam Remi (the Fugees; Nas; Amy Winehouse), and the legendary Babyface, who together create a seamless blend of past and present. Hamilton neither chases trends nor makes fetish of retro sounds and influences. Instead, he finds powerful common ground between vintage influences and modern production.
“Back to Love”
Three stars (Out of four)
-- Ernest Hardy