ALBUM: Coming Home ARTIST: Leon Bridges
Album release date: June 23, 2015
A taste of honest soul-music
Coming Home is young Leon Bridges’ debut album, and it surely won’t be his last. Recorded basically live using only vintage instruments and local musicians in a humble studio in Fort Worth, this unaffected, sincere work of honest soul-music reveals Bridges to be a master of his craft, right up there in the ranks of Cooke, Redding, and Belvin: yet still standing on his own as a unique and remarkable talent.
Like beads of honey rollin’ off the comb
I listened to Coming Home one morning as I was painting my room a warm, cheerful shade of yellow. The moment the music began straining through my speakers, I was unable to suppress a smile of genuine delight. With each stroke of color came another bar of infectious, honest music sung by one of the finest voices to ever croon its way into my mind and heart. Right from the opening track, the gloriously simple groove of Southern soul glows through the entire set of songs like beads of honey rollin’ off the comb. Understated, hazy background doo-wop vocals; brassy arrangements swelling up and down; shuffling drums and artfully placed snares; organs rippling out as they do, lending a slow warmth; and most of all – a smooth, trustworthy voice that delivers consistently and effortlessly.
A welcome break from introspection
Thematically, this album is a welcome change of pace from the wistful, introspective, and at times absurd tone so many current artists seem to favor. Here we get a glimpse into the pure heart of a grounded young man, and it is anything but trite or saccharine. It’s a healthy dose of the joyful side of reality. The excitement brought on by the cosmic interaction between the sexes is tenderly expressed in many of these songs, as is the simple joy of song and dance – Smooth Sailin and Twistin’ and Groovin’ come to mind. A handful of songs are either imbued with gospel messages or are straight-up gospel songs: “I wanna tell you about the Good News,” the background voices sing on Flowers, and then on River, the beautiful, haunting closing track, Leon sings, “In my darkness I remember/Momma’s words reoccur to me/’Surrender to the good Lord, and He’ll wipe your slate clean.’” One track on the album, titled Lisa Sawyer, was the first soul song Bridges penned when he was still in highschool: dedicated to his mother, it is a song of epically beautiful proportions, from its lyrical content to Bridges’ gorgeous, tender phraseology. “She had the complexion of a sweet praline, hair long as the sea/heart warm like Louisiana sun/voice like the symphony of the most beautiful instruments/At the age of sixteen she found Christ at an altar/All along He was calling her name/the Gospel spoken from an old wrinkly man.”
Simplicity: the formula for successful soul music
Coming Home takes a note from Otis Redding’s philosophy of soul: “Basically, I like any music that remains simple, and I feel this is the formula that makes ‘soul music’ successful,” the great Stax musician once said. “When any music form becomes cluttered and/or complicated you lose the average listener’s ear. There is nothing more beautiful than a simple blues tune. There is beauty in simplicity whether you are talking about architecture, art or music.” Leon Bridges, the gentlemanly, earnest young man from Texas, is living this philosophy to the hilt. I can’t say enough good about this debut album. It is a work beautiful in its simplicity and hopefulness, and something everyone can fall in love with. I think it’s safe to say that this music is actually good for the soul.