LEON BRIDGES – SMOOTH, UNDERSTATED AND CHANNELLING THE SPIRIT OF SOUL’S FINEST


THE Fort Worth singer is reinventing modern music by reviving a forgotten genre

Leon Bridges’ debut album Coming Home is a smooth nod to the soul aficionado’s gone before him. His brand of slick, understated Southern soul revives the spirits of the great wailing masters, from Sam Cooke’s gentle melodies, to Otis Redding’s frantic, raw style, right through to the sheer power of Levi Stubbs.

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Leon Bridges keeps it cool with a simple vintage style and fantastically formulaic soul tunes (Picture: Dallas Observer).

The 25 year-old’s throwback to ’50s and ’60s rhythm & blues, only just begins with his music. Right down to the socks and shoes Leon Bridges keeps it cool with a simple vintage style and fantastically formulaic soul tunes.

The opening track from the ten groove LP provides the album’s title and sets the standard for what ensues. ‘Coming Home’ is a modern classic at first listen. Plodding bass and slow, swooning drums set the pace nice and slow as Bridges croons over it, plucking away at his guitar wailing “baby, baby, bay… I’m coming home to your tender sweet loving, you’re my one and only woman.”

The pace instantly picks up with ‘Better Man’ – a more Stax inspired track with a nice shiny, brass finish. Bridges pleads in a Redding-esque gravelly tone “what can I do? What can I do, to get back to your heart? I’d swim the Mississippi River if you would give me another start girl.” You can practically see the backing singers on stage swaying and clicking their fingers as they repeat “do-wop” for the duration, giving the track a nice retro feel.

‘Smooth Sailin” continues the Stax feel to the record, definitely a song to get up and dance to – sax solos, a swaying rhythm and sultry lyrics make it perfect for a boogie. How many more bases has this boy got left to cover in the soul ball park?

‘Lisa Sawyer’ proves that it’s not many as Bridges show he possesses the ability to slow things down without losing his captivating qualities. Delving deep to seek out his Georgia gospel roots: the song is inspired by his mother’s baptism in a river. Smoky, slow, almost jazzy, the brass sounds on this record are fabulous as Bridges almost breaks into a rap approaching the three minute mark.

I too almost broke out into something (a terrible jive) as the bouncing guitar of ‘Flowers’kicked in and Bridges gets all rock ‘n’ roll á la Little Richard and Chuck Berry.

‘River’ is a fitting ending to a varied album drenched in toe-tapping three minute soul hits and slow love songs, as Bridges again shows he can freshen things up by stripping everything back to an acoustic guitar, choral harmonies and minimal percussion. He shows his power and wails “take me to your river, I wanna know”

In a country divided by racial tensions, Bridges strikes as someone with something very important to say and could be a very influential artist in years to come, just like his contemporaries were during the civil rights movement. First and foremost however, Bridges is clearly a very talented musician and it’s helpful that he also has a strong identity. Smooth, understated and channelling the spirit of soul’s finest, this boy can hit a home run, but he’s only at third base, with plenty more to give.

9/10

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