Anthony Hamilton, 'Back to Love' (RCA)

Critical Mass

by Barry Walters

The heyday of soul sincerity minus the corn is long over, but Anthony Hamilton nevertheless generates disarming warmth while straddling the thin line between traditionalism and timelessness. This churchy-not-preachy Charlotte, North Carolina-raised, Harlem-based crooner is a master at grown-man's R&B because his humility runs as deep as his dignity. Like thehit "So in Love," a duet with Jill Scott, Hamilton's fifth and most finessed album brings uplifting vibes to quotidian dramas: He lets his fidelity slip on the Babyface-assisted "Pray for Me," then promises to be "so good even Oprah would be jealous of you." Mixing stately story ballads with Cee-Lo-esque uptempo jams, Back to Love presents songwriting substance as style, and although that might not be flashy, it's mighty refreshing.

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