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 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," who's 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.