Anthony Hamilton | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Anthony Hamilton

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The only contemporary musician who can rock a trucker hat without looking like a jackass kicked around the R & B game for a decade until 2003, when Comin' From Where I'm From (So So Def/Arista) earned the North Carolina-born soul man an audience beyond those who scrutinize liner notes. Before that Hamilton recorded two albums, one for Uptown and one for Soulife, that remain unreleased in the wake of each label's collapse; his 1996 debut, XTC, hit stores but drew little attention. In the meantime, he paid rent and made connections by singing backup for D'Angelo and moaning on such hits as Nappy Roots' "Po' Folks." On Comin', Hamilton's world-weary voice, similar to Bill Withers's, drains all the boudoir luxuriance and coffee shop ambience from the neosoul arrangements; the liquid wah-wah guitar, woozy keyboards, and unobtrusive high hats create a gritty urban context for his plaints. When he recalls how his mother "used to wipe pee just to make the ends meet" on "Mama Knew Love" or laments his inability to make bail on the title track, Hamilton reminds us that the grain of a committed journeyman's voice conveys a sense of loss in a way that geniuses are too busy chasing transcendence to capture. Headliner Angie Stone secured her place in hip-hop history 25 years ago with the pioneering all-female rap crew the Sequence; on Stone Love (J Records) she again demonstrates her commitment to rooting herself in the R & B present--even if it means duetting with Snoop Dogg. For more see Music in Section 1. Friday 22, 7:30 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-559-1212, $45.75.

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