By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records
Just a quick note to let you know that I’ve listened to Leon Bridges' new album, Coming Home, several times now and I’ve come to the following conclusions:
- Leon Bridges is a pretty smooth dude. His vocal phrasings are nicely toasted to the low burning embers of the music - no marshmallows catch fire on this album if you know what I mean - and I was continually left wanting s’more of Leon's sound. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing - maybe Leon is a little too nicely toasted at times. Maybe it would be nice to hear him really let loose and catch fire - he certainly has the voice for it. Perhaps he lets things hang out a little more in his live shows - some artists are great on record but even better live.
- I like soul. I need more of it in my life and in my music collection. I go through life with a damper on my feelings most of the time and it can be liberating to listen to a honey-throated heartbreaker sing it with feeling (whatever “it” may be). If I was a singer I think I’d want to be the soulful kind who could sing those “Baby, baby, baby’s” and “Whoa girl’s" like Leon, in a way to make the ladies lean forward and listen.
- “Coming Home” is far and away the best song on the album, which is probably why it is the title track and why it was also the demo song that got him significant radio airplay and attention from major labels, leading to a deal with Columbia. Unfortunately, “Coming Home” is also the first track on the album, which could make it a downhill trip from there for some listeners. I’m here to tell you to hang in there and keep listening. “Better Man,” “Smooth Sailin’,” "Lisa Sawyer,” “Pull Away,” and “River” are also standout tracks that deserve attention. Leon’s music has what I call “instant atmosphere” and by virtue of his velvety vocals and smooth, retro style he can make any room and any person in that room feel instantly cooler with the sound of any of the tracks on this album.
- I’ve seen names like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye written in connection with Leon’s. I hear the similarities, though his voice doesn’t have the same kind of grit or power or passion of any of these, but of course not and so what? He’s awfully close, but I don’t really want him to be any of these guys anyway. I want him to be himself, and on the strength of this, his debut album in what surely could be a long and successful career, he is succeeding wildly at doing just that.
They soon after set-up shop in a makeshift studio and recorded the album's opener "Coming Home" completely live to tape. This first take is exactly what you hear opening the album. The remaining 9 songs followed in a burst of creativity and inspiration.
Leon was the breakout artist of 2015's SXSW, and performed to capacity crowds at A-level events including Heartbreaker at Willie Nelson's ranch, the Gorilla-vs-Bear HypeHotel showcase, Spotify House and Saint David's Church. His soulful, movement based performances and adept backing band garnered strong reviews from a variety of top-level media including the New York Times, Billboard and Grantland amongst many others.