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Anthony Hamilton 

Ain't Nobody Worryin' (So So Def)

Anthony Hamilton once seemed one of those talented performers destined to be perpetually shafted by the music biz, with a couple of unreleased albums to prove it. But a couple of years ago, a funny thing happened: Folks suddenly took a shine to Hamilton's subtle southern soul, making his last LP, Coming From Where I'm From, a surprise success. And now that he's made it on his own terms -- that rarest of feats -- his follow-up, happily, faces no pressure to be anything but more of the same. Only occasional reminders of present-day hip-hop intrude on these old-fashioned reveries, filled with tales of big-boned gals, preachers' daughters, and the joys of home.

Others, of course, have sold such salt-of-the-earth, retro R&B over the past few years, but no one has done it with so little affectation. Recreating the '70s sway of Muscle Shoals and Stax is simple, but Hamilton sounds as if he lived it the first time, effortlessly finding the humanity missing from so much urban music. His strength still flows from his powerful roots: an after-school romance sparks a paean to a deeper love as he croons, "You got that southern stuff I like." After hearing the sublime Ain't Nobody Worryin', most will say the same about Hamilton.

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