American Babies is, in effect, the group name for Philadelphia singer/songwriter/guitarist Tom Hamilton, who is joined on the band's self-titled debut album by the rhythm section of his bass-playing brother Jim Hamilton and drummer Joe Russo, along with a bevy of guests who sing along and play keyboards, cello, violin, and lap steel guitar. Hamilton favors country-flavored folk-rock arrangements, many of them taken at relaxed, even languorous tempos, over which he sings of the vagaries of love. The deliberate pacing often recalls Cowboy Junkies, and Hamilton's lyric subjects, written in the first person to a "you" with whom the "I" always seems to be romantically involved, tend toward the melancholy. But he rarely gets as depressed as Cowboy Junkies, even when he's confessing his loneliness about his loved one's absence, and he often comes off as charmingly mesmerized by her physical appeal. "There goes my girl, guns a-blazing," he sings in "Brooklyn Bridge," "She looks amazing." Smitten as he is by her appearance, Hamilton (or, at least, the character speaking in the lyrics) has trouble getting along with his girl, but he hasn't given up hope. Even if things aren't going to work out, he suggests in one of the more up-tempo tunes, "Rocker," that may be just as well: "So here's to getting rid of me/And here's to moving on/Ya see I'm tired of playing this ruthless game/I had you, I lost you, I had you, I lost you." Whatever he says, however, the listener suspects he'd be happy to have her again.
American Babies Review
by William Ruhlmann