Anthony Hamilton Southern Comfort    
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written by Dwain Lucktung    
This is as fresh as soul music can get, delivered by a 36-year-old who has said goodbye to the days of being a minor back-up singer for the likes of 2Pac and D'Angelo. Step up, Anthony Hamilton today's answer to the much-missed grooves of Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and Co.

The platinum artist's third album, Southern Comfort (released on April 3) consists of previously unreleased material written by Hamilton somewhere between 2000 and 2002, when the Charlotte, N.C. born star was still struggling to find his place in the music industry. The result: a stunning culmination of funky beats, soulful love songs, painful honesty and old-school storytelling.

From the first song on the album, "They Don't Know," Hamilton takes a stand against the prejudices that still face today's men, as he sings straight from his Gospel roots: "They don't know about the things I've been going through/And I won't let them get the best of me and my soul." Religious or not, one is compelled to clap their hands to the hallelujah-praise-the-Lord vibe as Hamilton preaches his words supported by catchy trumpets, a bouncy bass line and back-up singers repeating: "Good God almighty!"

"Magnolia's Room," "Better Love" and "Falling In Love Again" are all classic love songs, as Hamilton sings heart-breaking stories of lost women and new-found love, a side of him fans will be well accustomed to after picking up his successful second album, Comin From Where I'm From.

As with the last album, desperate men of our times will be stealing a few clichs off Southern Comfort to serenade their wifies, as Hamilton sings on the soothing feel-good "Magnolia's Room": "For you I would swim across the ocean/For you there ain't nothing in the world that I won't give to make you happy."

Other songs on the album include the inspirational "Never Give Up" and "Why," where Hamilton sings with easy R&B beats: "How many days have I told myself get up again/And go on with the struggle." Both songs are portrayals of the artist's motto to get up, look up and work harder when down and out; pure reasons why Hamilton is now reaping the rewards after years of getting nudged out of the limelight.

"Glad U Called" and "Don't Say What You Won't Do" give a double-dose of Hamilton's personal concerns with the world's disinterest and disregard for members of society. As ever, with a flawless and soulful voice, alongside his mood-setting back-up singers, Hamilton demands all to sway and bop as he sings on "Don't Say What You Won't Do": "If you see me walking on the street and I start to cry/Don't walk on bywhy don't you look me in my eyes?"

Each song on Southern Comfort depicts where Hamilton has come from: The struggle and hardships, the attitude he's been given, and the fight-back he is giving. One might suggest it differs little from his last album, but one must understand that this offering of unadulterated soul showcases Hamilton in a time before the recognition, the record sales and Grammy nominations.

Either way, Southern Comfort is a tasty little soul package, one for easy rides in the summer, one for those precious moments of personal reflection. Yes, the traditional love songs have been done before; carry on fucking complaining if, lyrically, you fail to find anything innovative on this album.

But challenge yourself to not lay back, drift away and reminisce with Southern Comfort's high-spirited closing song "Sailing Away," as Hamilton sings in an effortless, languid tone: "All day I dream, I dream of winning/ All day I dream, I dream of sailing away."

It's simple. Only stubborn grumps couldn't enjoy this album.

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