The Texan retro-soul singer with sounds from a dif­fer­ent age is mak­ing strides to­wards find his con­tem­po­rary voice

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TAKE CRITICS’ CHOICE - NIALLBYRNE


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.

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