The Texan retro-soul singer with sounds from a different age is making strides towards find his contemporary voice
Classic soul updated for the modern era.
Fort Worth, Texas
Leon Bridges’s debut album, Coming Home, from 2015, was filled with tasteful retro soul. Bridges embodied the classic sound, aided by a fine band consisting of members of the Austin rock group White Denim, among other seasoned players.
At the Longitude festival in Dublin that year Bridges and his band were resplendent in sharp suits and playing almost as well as Otis Redding or Sam Cooke might have. But pure homage can ring a little hollow.
Where to go next is a common problem. Could Imelda May have made rockabilly music for the rest of her life? Could The Strypes have maintained the blues-rock sound they broke through with as teenagers? The answer is invariably no, because artists decide it’s time to communicate in their own voices.
It’s too early to say whether Leon Bridges has done that yet – his second album, Good Thing, drops next month – but the Texan has certainly been making strides to find his 2018 soul voice.
Bridges has collaborated, written and performed with artists as varied as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Kacey Musgraves, Aminé and Odesza, and his first two songs back under his own name sound much more contemporary.
Even better than the twinkling, slow-string-assisted Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand, in which an animated Bridges effectively brings a vintage sound to a modern production, is the raw, full-band call-and-response blues of Bad Bad News, in which he sounds as if he’s been taking inspiration from Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, two artists who have drawn inspiration from sounds past to vital effect. There is hope now that Bridges will join them.