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Taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

Taking a listen

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Anthony Hamilton — The Point Of It All

In an era where seemingly every R&B artist’s voice is digitally molested to resemble something from Daft Punk’s “One More Time,” Anthony Hamilton (www.anthonyhamilton.com) stands out as a paragon of days when record producers, along with the listening public, valued the sound of an honest-to-God human voice. Hamilton’s dynamically soulful voice has earned him mentions alongside names like Sam Cooke, Bill Withers, Donny Hathaway or Otis Redding, and deservedly so. His voice is warm, passionate and teeming with the same qualities that made his precursors so memorable. His sixth release, The Point Of It All addresses that topic in regards to his progression through various stages of relationships; some more rewarding than others, though all affecting in their own way. The album starts off at a breakneck pace with “The News,” in which Hamilton channels the urgency of Bobby Womack’s “Across 110 th Street.” The album’s first single “Cool” features rapper David Banner, though his presence on the track only detracts from what is otherwise a heartfelt appraisal of altruistic love. Banner’s line “let me scratch the dandruff out of your scalp/picking your nose” is almost Zappa-esque in its immaturity and seems awkwardly out of place on what could be the album’s strongest track. Overall, the album suffers from the bland, mechanical beats of songs like “The Day We Met” and “Her Heart.” It’s notable to say that the likes of Withers and Hathaway all utilized fantastic musical arrangements and the lack of which will eventually cause Hamilton to fall well behind them all in the hierarchy of great soul singers.

Charlie Louvin — Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs

He is continually one of the most overlooked, yet at the same time most significant, musicians of any breed. He has been credited with influencing artists from Wilco to Emmylou Harris and Bright Eyes to the Byrds, yet most of the listening public is wholly unfamiliar with the 81year old Charlie Louvin (www.charlielouvinbros.com). But none of that is stopping him from making some of the best music of his long, storied career. After releasing one of the best gospel album of 2008 just months earlier, Louvin visits the opposite end of the emotional spectrum with Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, an album of reworked original material from the Louvin Brothers 1955 debut album and some rather obscure, but interesting traditional works. Louvin has made his peace with religion, after long ago owning up to switching to secular music for its wider audience. Now he deals with death and despair through his own arrangements much like Johnny Cash in his final days, though rest assured that Snoop Dogg won’t be covering Louvin’s cover of Dorsey Dixon’s “Down With the Old Canoe.” His solemn voice fits the tone of the material perfectly, as his once-twangy tenor has matured into a gravely rasp. But with the flash and glamour that saturates country music these days, it’s great to see that there are those still around who remember the narrative roots of a distinctly American invention.

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