Blood of the Ham


On Ain’t Nobody Worryin’, Anthony Hamilton once again brings the drama. The kind best described as blue-collar-Black- Southern-soul- gospel-gothic- playalistic. Meaning there will be blood, lots of blood.

The blood of the lamb and the blood of the prodigal son as well as the blood of the son’s fallen, hooking, hero’n addict sister, the “Preacher’s Daughter.” Girl gets to quietly sighing moaning crying “I need you Daddy” in something of a way that leaves you gasping and guessing as to whether she’s catching the spirit, raising the dead, or lusting after her father. Borderline kind of sick and twisted but perversely plaintive. No wonder Hamilton surrounds it with gritty reveries on man’s fate and dreams of crossing paths with a biscuit-fed Toccara-type gal who’ll remind him of eating neckbones and raising a big family.

Hamilton is our No. 1 Mason-Dixon soul man of the moment—meaning a cosmopolite full of country yearnings, country yuks, and country truisms. The former backup singer treats his career like a real job—he tours, he records, he writes, he tours, he keeps it moving. No bohemian angst or martyr complexes here. Doesn’t hurt that he’s got the kind of sweet, gruff, slow-grind countertenor we been missing since Dennis Edwards cooed and barked on us not to look any further. Hamilton’s not as macho, but he has his moments of happiness-cum-holiness-cum-impending-damnation, with a slippery falsetto that Eddie Kendricks wouldn’t be mad at. Kudos as well to Hamilton’s skintight, foot-on-the-rock band and his producers, particularly for the way they mix the voodoo congas—dry and hollow like they took ’em straight out some storefront church—and how, like Willie Mitchell, they know how to work the sublime convergence of a pumping B-3 organ and a swelling brass section.

Nor does it hurt that Hamilton’s a pithy and adroit storyteller-songwriter, equally adept at Curtis-esque social commentary, bad-luck and love-trouble tunes à la Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Smokey-style worship-at-your-Woman’s altar. His debut’s title Coming From Where I’m From ranks with Bad Brains’ “Sacred Love” for bringing the pain from behind bars. Here he devotes an entire paean to a sister who got that Southern stuff he likes. It won’t bump the Frankie Beverly chestnut on the theme at the next family reunion picnic. But it makes for a lilting update of the canon.

Anthony Hamilton plays the Canal Room January 25.

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