Introducing ‘Notes from Mr. Sandman‘ – a column slapping a spotlight on lyricists overlooked, under appreciated, or just plain criminally slept on. Or like a man named Nas once said, “I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” Enter Mr. Sandman with what y’all missed while chasing the REM dragon.
Anthony Hamilton is an R&B gem hiding in plain sight; soft-spoken and genteel in person, but a sonic force on stage. Over 20 years he’s been churning out expertly crafted songs only to remain a quiet, almost reclusive star. Shying away from the limelight may seem antithetical nowadays, but it’s part of Hamilton’s appeal; his simple down-to-earth perspective, a fresh respite from the norm.
Hamilton’s style is firmly rooted in the church, more gospel and soul than dookie booty R&B. His breakout album Comin’ from Where I’m From is like a heaping plate of southern comfort food but for the spirit. When it first dropped R&B was already in the throes of oversexualizing itself, and Hamilton’s approach brought in a sorely needed dose of sophistication.
“Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens” is a shining example of Hamilton’s abilities. The title is a nod to tradition, but he adds his own touch by transforming it into a song of courtship. It’s universal, but still personable and warm: [LISTEN]
Hamilton’s voice is pure gold, he has a lazy flow that exudes strength and confidence. There’s a raspy quality to it that gives him a distinct edge over the squeaky clean and heavily auto-tuned chops currently saturating the airwaves. It’s as if the almighty dipped his voice in liquid smoke before sending him down.
That voice is his calling card, no doubt, but it’s his songwriting that has made him a mainstay. He has a knack for knowing when to be subtle and when to be brash — always stimulating the imagination but not overdoing it. Hamilton sets the scene like a movie director and then at the most crucial juncture he steps back, leaving it up to the listener to fill in the blanks. He can take the most intimate moments and make them open and available for all to enjoy.
Timelessness is Hamilton’s M.O., a modern day Shakespeare with a penchant for drama. On “Preacher’s Daughter” Hamilton reminds us that hard times can fall on anyone, and the last thing a person should do is pass judgement without first trying to understand: [LISTEN]
Twenty years ago Anthony Hamilton tapped into a championship formula, and since then he’s created a humble legacy built squarely upon heart and determination. He doesn’t compromise his style because he never had to follow trends in the first place.
He dug deep, embraced the sound coming from his soul and projected it with no filter. The church is still at the forefront of his sound, but he doesn’t bog you down with ethics or morals. Instead he champions the everyday and promotes the healing power of love, a steady force with ironclad faith.