After years of searching, songwriter Tommy
Hamilton finally found home. And the old adage
proved true: it was exactly where his heart was.
"It was the shoe that fit," he says, using another
old adage. "I wrote one song and it just felt so
right, I can't even explain it. All I can say is that
it was exactly what I was looking for."
That song, "American Babies," took all of two
years to materialize. But the vibe lingered long
enough for Hamilton to produce several more
songs while in its grip, enough to make an entire
album of the same name: American Babies. "This
is it. This is my thing. It's what I do
now and I couldn't be happier."
Like all brilliant, beautifully rendered
albums, American Babies
(April 1, 2008 / SCI Fidelity
Records) washes over you with
wit, wisdom and tenderness. The
Philadelphia-bred Hamilton combined
his urbane mindset with
the country music of his childhood,
creating work that places him alongside
career artists like Ryan Adams, Conor Oberst,
and Jeff Tweedy. The buzz is already on.
At the time Hamilton started writing acoustic
roots material like "American Babies," he was
far from home. He'd been writing, performing,
and enjoying a swell of critical acclaim with his
band Brothers Past --- yielding a wellspring of
positive notices that could possibly have been his
ticket to the big time. But his heart wasn't
entirely in the process as it stood. "For some
time, I had wanted to get more into the music I
grew up on."
Which is exactly what he did. He returned to the
Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash
records his dad made him listen to as a kid, but
heard them differently this time. The sounds
inspired him wholeheartedly and he began writing
in a similar vein. "I don't want to get too
deep on it," says Hamilton, a candid realist who
equates writing songs with any other job. "I
write songs and I play the guitar. It is what I do
and it is who I am."
Some people undertake their occupations better
than others, though, and Hamilton is a top-rate
songwriter. And with the accompaniment of
bassist/brother Jim Hamilton and drummer Joe
Russo, American Babies developed into something
extraordinary. (Guitarist Scott Metzger
joined later.) "As soon as Joe and Jim came on
board, everything started to click. I was writing
for us now; it wasn't so self-serving."
Great songs serve both the artist and the audience,
and American Babies is loaded with
enchanting tunes. The journey begins at the
top, with the opening strums of "Invite Your
Friends" to the gentle blues
"Baby, Don't Cry" and the sunshine
pop of "Swimming at
Night." "American Babies," an
epic roots pop tour de force
hinges on the lyric, "I didn't write
this song, I listened to the music
in your heart and played along."
Hamilton and the band kick it out
on "Brooklyn Bridge" and
"Rocker," take it down on the delicate "One for
the Road" and "Floating," before finishing up
with the richly melancholy "Never Be Loved Like
This Again," whose protagonist figures he'll
never be loved like he is right now, so he should
"quit while he's ahead."
Together for a little more than a year, American
Babies have already landed several influential
gigs, including Philly's World Music Café,
Chicago's Wicker Park Festival and Bonnaroo.
The chemistry and magical X-factor this band
possesses is already apparent, even contagious.
"We really enjoy playing these songs," says
Hamilton. "We're great friends who believe in
music and believe in each other. These are our
songs. If you like it great, if not, well, we're
gonna do it anyway."