Anthony Hamilton lays his soul on the table in “Coming From Where I’m From”

Anthony Hamilton “Coming From Where I’m From” (Heads Up Records)

Judging from the title of the song “Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens” on singer-songwriter Anthony Hamilton’s album, one would think that it is a musical tribute to Southern life. Far from it. It is, rather, an abrupt rebuff to a sassy-mouthed woman.

Hamilton sings, “Better stake your claim, get with it/stay in your lane, stop swerving.” If the neck-twisting, nasty-retort gives him the appearance of a misogynist, he promises to make things smoother. In another verse, he spells it outright with the lyrics, “I got what you need/what you need/if you want it (I can rock your world) If you want it/I’m bigger juice than jheri curl.”

“Chyna Black,” like R. Kelly’s “You Remind Me,” compares women to cars – this time to a Ford. But its lyrics do not at all evoke the sort of objectification of women that Kelly’s song did. It has an aura of freshness around it, with Hamilton practically praising the virtues of his exceptionally reliant soul mate. He sings, “Chyna Black is like my old Ford/picks me up/helps carry the load/I can depend on when times are cold/soothes my body like mom’s old robe.”

Strangely enough, the two tracks that have women’s names as the titles – “Charlene” and “Lucille” – are about abandonment. Charlene’s desertion is a result of her personal refusal not to come second in her partner’s music. Lucille, for her part, is more irrational. She leaves a neglectful partner, only to join the town’s drunk.

The track “I’m a Mess” showcases the sensitive side of the singer. Its storyline has him mourning over the loss of a loved one, not to death, but to the demise of a romantic relationship. Its verses are startlingly original. Hamilton’s voice whirls like some wild wind slapped around by a divine hand. By the time the song ends, and the singer is whispering adlibs, one gets the feeling that the song is by all means a recollection of a particularly scarring break-up.

“Coming From Where I’m From” is more appropriately titled than most albums. Hamilton lays out his soul on the table for close examination, and in doing so he has produced a surprisingly remarkable album.