Anthony Hamilton Comin' From Where I'm From So So Def/Arista
Neo-soul was supposed to rescue r&b from a severe case of formulitis. Yet by now, the realness comes off as formulaic as all those snarling rappers. Ultimately a parade of bohos armed with well-worn copies of Innervisions wound up preaching the gospel of sincere imitation, bad poetry, and overwrought introspection. Because he used to back up D'Angelo and works with Philly-based Soulquarian producer James Poyser, it'd be easy to toss Anthony Hamilton in with the pack. But this South Carolina native and session vet is deep and rich: His throaty baritone on Comin' From Where I'm From winks at Bill Withers and Bobby Womack, and his songs are infused with a world-weary countrified longing (he even dips into Kenny Rogers's "Lucille") that by totally ignoring hip-hop's ballistics signals old-school authenticity. Hamilton has bypassed the trappings of hipness by recording an album that is both greasy and gritty; like soulmen Jaheim and Dave Hollister, he brings a grown-up resignation to the mix.