Which helps explain why Comin' From Where I'm From is such a mature and focused work. Although inspired by the classic R&B of Teddy Pendergrass, Bill Withers, Al Green and Marvin Gaye, as well as the neo-soul of Maxwell and D'Angelo, there's little that is retro about Hamilton's approach. Rather, he testifies over slick, synthesized backing as radio/bedroom-ready as anything from the Luther Vandross songbook.
Whether sliding into a falsetto croon on "Better Days" or pulling a gruff Sly Stone on the title track -- one of a handful of tunes that reminisce on his hardscrabble upbringing -- this is the sound of a fully developed singer/songwriter finally getting his break. When he cries, "Sometimes I get a little ... scared," it's a chilling moment infused both by his gospel roots and his tempestuous career.
Although the silky mood, slow jam-groove and quiet storm backing seldom vary, Hamilton's shaken-and-stirred voice and his obvious love of old-school R&B mesh with Dupri's contemporary touch make this one of the most soulful and sexy albums of the year.
Anthony Hamilton plays the Cotton Club Wed., Nov. 26. $17.50-$20.