D’Angelo was supposed to be the star. The oiled down, chiseled singer was crowned the king of neo-soul while a little-known Anthony Hamilton sang background on his 2000 Voodoo tour. Yet even in the shadows, Hamilton’s earthy vocals were undeniable and gave him staying power, while today conversations of his former mentor start with, “What ever happened to…”
With a Grammy for his duet with R&B legend Al Green, a devoted fanbase, and his latest album debuting No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, Hamilton is headlining his own “Playin’ it Cool” tour with Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele.
“Me and Musiq had done shows together before and it was a great turn out so we just felt good about it and we felt like with Chrisette Michele being a lady – as classy as she is – that would bring a nice something to it,” explained Hamilton, who will make a stop at Tower Theater in Upper Darby Tuesday. “I’m the older guy but we all just have a mutual respect for one another.”
With the storytelling chops of Bill Withers, Hamilton’s music causes you to listen with all five senses – from his mama falling asleep in her work clothes in “Mama Knew Love” to the “Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens” that were a staple growing up in his native North Carolina.
His latest album, “Point of It All” features production from Philly songwriter James Poyser and Amy Winehouse partner Salaam Remi. The result: A throwback sound suited for modern sensibilities.
Hamilton says he’s already finished about a dozen tracks for his next album – slated for an early 2010 release – and is mixing up his sound, experimenting with blues, rock and even country. A sonic gamble he says his fans will embrace.
“Musically, the Grammy was a nice notch on my belt to allow other people to see your talent. It feels good to have it but it feels good to have a fanbase. So I guess I’m growing and I feel like I’m solid in my space,” said Hamilton in his southern drawl. “I’m still putting songs that I love and songs that speak to me on the album.”
For “Point of It All,” Hamilton – whose collaborations include country star John Rich, Keyshia Cole, Young Jeezy and Santana – trimmed the guests to rapper David Banner for the single “Cool.”
At the top of his guest appearance wish list is B.B. King, says Hamilton, and if he could hop into a time machine “I would have loved to work with Marvin Gaye and Nat King Cole. … We would have done something different.”
As for his definition of “cool,” the laid-back soul singer says: “Cool is comfort; being comfortable in whatever space you’re in. Cool is the ability to handle situations under pressure and make the best of it.”
Anthony Hamilton with Musiq Soulchild, start at 8pm. 6.23.09 at the Tower Theater, 69th and Ludlow. Tickets still available for $39.50 and $49.50. All ages.