Texas has always been a state synonymous with pioneering musical innovation. Yet, with the release of Fort Worth native Leon Bridges' debut album, an anomaly has arisen which sends the listener back into the past. Having begun his career with a string of open-mic night shows, his rich blend of soul and rhythm 'n' blues influences peppered a demo of Bridges' album title track, which received an overwhelming level of success after its appearance on SoundCloud.
Since then, the 25 year-old has gained plenty of acclaim and recognition surrounding his 1950s and '60s sound, recorded using retro equipment that lends a real authenticity to match Leon Bridges' style. It's one that has received an abundance of Sam Cooke comparisons, yet also evokes elements of greats such as Otis Redding and an early Marvin Gaye. In fact, Bridges' sound is the pinnacle of a young artist transmitting a dated sound and bringing it straight into the 21st century, with the final results nostalgic yet ultimately fresh and current.
'Better Man' has a bright, big band feel, sounding as though especially crafted to accompany the closing credits of a mawkish British rom-com, meanwhile 'Lisa Sawyer' is a sentimental ode to Bridges' mother and the Louisiana history that's rooted in his family. Similarly, 'Pull Away' is a tender offering that also carries emotive lyrical themes as well as a melodic piano that tinkers harmoniously alongside those silky vocals, while 'Twistin' & Groovin'' brings one final chance to raise the tempo and dabble with a bluesy groove.
All before 'River' brings the LP to its close - a slow-burning composition that showcases a more stripped back songwriting virtuosity. Helmed by a soft acoustic guitar and sparse drum skitter that plays alongside the track's heartfelt vocal yearning and multi-textural chorus, it provides a fitting conclusion to a hugely accomplished debut album.
Words: Jonathan Hatchman
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