Leon Bridges Brings Southern Soul Into the 21st Century

Tenacity is baked into Southern soul. It’s there in the grain and resolve of the singing, in the patiently rolling grooves, in how its down-to-earth stories unfold. It’s there in the way the tunes holds on to blues and gospel roots connected to further African ancestry. And it’s there in the way the seem persists and adapts by way of a long time, getting new rhythms but however testifying from the coronary heart.

“Gold-Diggers Audio,” the 3rd album by the Texas songwriter Leon Bridges, offers his customized survival strategy for Southern soul. Bridges sings about its typical matters in songs that take their time and revel in normal, unvarnished singing. He pledges sensual romance in “Magnolias,” does some cheating (with duet vocals from Atia “Ink” Boggs) in “Don’t Be concerned About Me” and affirms his faith in “Born Once again.” All-around him, the new music takes advantage of artificial textures, programmed beats and surreal layering to have a many years-outdated custom into the 21st century.

“Sweeter,” which Bridges unveiled in June 2020 following the law enforcement murder of George Floyd, attracts grace from mourning. The narrator is a useless guy with his mom, sisters and brothers weeping around him. “I assumed we moved on from the darker days,” Bridges sings, more than a pattering entice beat and Terrace Martin’s measured electric-piano chords he adds, “Someone need to hand you a felony/For the reason that you stole from me my chance to be.”

“I can’t and will not be silent any for a longer period,” Bridges reported in a statement at the time. “Just as Abel’s blood was crying out to God, George Floyd is crying out to me.”

Bridges, 32, has labored his way forward as a result of soul-new music history. His very first album, “Coming Home” in 2015, launched a singer who harked again to an era nicely just before he was born. His voice recalled the suavity of Sam Cooke and the grit of Otis Redding, and his music was unabashedly revivalist 1960s soul. Bridges moved the timeline forward with “Good Thing” in 2018, invoking 1980s “quiet storm” R&B and 1990s neo-soul. The two albums achieved the Billboard Top 10, but they left the effect that Bridges was however accomplishing style studies, attempting on founded models.

“Gold-Diggers Sound” — named just after the Los Angeles studio the place the album was built — is extra confidently single-minded. All of its tracks are midtempo or slower, generally verging on languid. Gently coiling, reverb-laden electrical-guitar vamps, from Nate Mercereau, transform numerous of the music into meditations, and all of the tracks, no subject how significantly is going on less than the surface area, defer to Bridges’s voice. Though the writing credits are comprehensive of collaborations — including pop tune medical practitioners like Dan Wilson and Justin Tranter — the tracks current Bridges as a lonely figure in a desolate room, pleading and promising.

Bridges and his producers, Ricky Reed and Mercereau, have plainly heard the sluggish grooves of D’Angelo, Prince, R. Kelly, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. But there is a different, melancholy aspect to Bridges’s music and his voice: fewer assurance, a lot more ache.

He’s still a sweet talker, featuring his fans not only satisfaction but also further empathy. In “Motorbike,” about a calmly plinking, African-tinged groove, he insists, “Don’t signify no tension/I just wanna make you really feel appropriate.” A guitar vamps serenely in “Details” as he concerns about a partner acquiring anyone else he reminds her how carefully he’s compensated notice to “How you look in the car or truck when I’m driving a lil rapidly/How you pause when you chat when you’re attempting not to giggle.”

All over the album, Bridges dares to acknowledge how needy he is. “Why Really don’t You Contact Me” has the variety of ticking, undulating backdrop that a further singer may well use for an understated occur-on. But Bridges’s tune sees the enthusiasm ebbing out of his connection, miracles what he could have accomplished wrong and finishes up begging: “Girl, make me experience required/Really do not leave me out here unfulfilled.” And Bridges ends the album not with passionate bliss, but with “Blue Mesas,” which confesses to a lingering depression that hasn’t been altered by achievements. It is a contemporary preference — unexpectedly in line with the brooding sing-rap of songwriters like Polo G and Rod Wave. For Bridges, soul’s record is however unfolding.

Leon Bridges
“Gold-Diggers Sound”
(Columbia)

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