Things have never been easy for platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated, neo-soul crooner Anthony Hamilton. Before briefly touching superstardom with his 2003 So So Def hit Comin' from Where I'm From, Hamilton bounced from short-lived label to short-lived label. Hamilton, who honed his gritty chops singing in his Charlotte, North Carolina, church choir, reached age 30 without any sign of real success. That was when he put together his latest release, Southern Comfort, recorded between 2000 and 2002, which was promptly shelved. Less assured than his subsequent albums, this LP is written from the always refreshing perspective of a guy who hasn't got a pot to piss in. "I can't walk down the street 'cause people looking at me like I just robbed the neighborhood Circle K," begins "They Don't Know," the album's first track. Southern Comfort's tales of struggle are perhaps prescient for the next stage in Hamilton's career, as he threatens to drop into obscurity again. His last album of original material, Ain't Nobody Worryin' in 2005, did only a fraction of Comin' From's sales, and Southern Comfort, released on the Merovingian record label and barely publicized, probably won't sell much either. But if it brings Hamilton back to a place where he can make overachieving midtempo hum-alongs such as "Magnolia's Room" and "Don't Say What You Won't Do" Southern Comfort's standout tracks we, at least, won't be any poorer for it. Ben Westhoff
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