FACETIME- Soul men: Hamiltons get their act together

One of the critics in the Hook's music issue in April declared Ezra Hamilton "great" and "stupid"– great for making some of the most credible soul-influenced music around; stupid for never releasing an album (since he's so great).

Hamilton, 26, swears he can explain. He says he still won't let anybody hear his first album because he made it as a 15-year-old guitar newbie. Understandable for a while, but over a decade later?

"We haven't really had the continuity," says bandmate Will Coles, 23. "It's not like the LA scene, where you hire some people and they come in and read the music. We really wanted to have a band."

They finally got one by rounding up Clayton Brown, Jamal Millner, Mike Croan, and Vic Brown– who all slated to be on hand November 3 at Starr Hill for the CD release party. But according to local media man Scott Wilson, who stepped up as the manager in July, it's the leader's vocal prowess that drives the sound.

"Ezra is pretty much the best singer I've ever heard," says Wilson. "Really."

With such notable musicians in this town, that's a powerful statement. Charlottesville audiences may have grown accustomed to the Hamiltons' covers of such big names as Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, and Prince, as well as Stevie Wonder, whose album Innervisions they covered in its entirety at a Gravity Lounge show in 2005.

"I wanted to present our material the same way that we'd present those old soul songs," says Hamilton. But he adds that committing to a record required a whole new way of dealing with his taste for classic soul. "When we got to the studio," he says, "we had to rehearse studio versions of these songs, because they were so ingrained in our minds."

He says he sees it as a collaborative effort, but he confesses that he wouldn't mind eventually getting some songwriting credits. "When I listen to R&B songs and when I look in the liner notes, I see lots of names for songwriters," he says.

Coles feels the same way. He wants his name in as many of those credits as possible– eventually. "I still don't think we're there yet," Coles says– a surprisingly humble statement for someone about to unleash his debut recording. "I have more," says Coles, "and people are going to see that in the future."

Ezra Hamilton