Album review by: Melody Charles
Pot liquor, smoked neck-bones, gravy puddled on a plate that you sop up with a biscuit: those flavors invoke the feel and comfort of home and that’s what I feel when I hear the voice of Anthony Hamilton. Seriously—-his voice is the truth. Ever since the late 90s, the NC native’s gritty tenor stood out on a variety of rap jams (Tupac, Nappy Rootz) and unreleased solo sets before his 2003 smash, “Comin’ From Where I’m From” hit the charts and established him as a true soul man for his generation. Christmas CDs are usually hard to get excited about since nearly every performer has created one, but you can’t help but get into the spirit when you hear his galvanizing vocals enhance old and new yuletide classics on his latest and first-ever Christmas set, Home For The Holidays.
Did I already mention that Brother Anthony’s vocals are the truth? Well, they are: he doesn’t recite the material as if he’s sending a text, the man slays it, knowing just when to pour on or pull back (if you can’t place his voice, think Bill Withers with a slight sand-papery edge/twang). The first two songs are brimming with infectious cheer: “Spend Christmas With You,” featuring glib harmonies injected by his vocalists The HamilTones, channels the exuberance of Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means To Me” and is one of the five new tracks he co-wrote,The title song is also an unexpected treat, a mellow folksy duet with pop’s Gavin DeGraw that emphasizes presence over presents on Christmas Day.
Even the traditional or familiar songs get pleasantly re-imagined: “Little Drummer Boy” and “Away In A Manger,” respectively, have somber intros and then burst into spirited send-ups that make them feel new all over again. He covers James Brown’s signature song, “Go Straight To the Ghetto” with reverence and, of course, he doesn’t let the collection end without mentioning the true reason for the season in “Spirit Of Love,” singing with his trademark lower gravelly register about Jesus’ arrival and His ultimate sacrifice for humankind.
Fans of Anthony Hamilton should have this already as a gift to themselves, but if you haven’t picked it up, go handle your business. And for those with a Scrooge or Grinch in the building, playing a few notes of this will make even them want to sing along. Practically guaranteed.