It seems that every other day brings news of another copyright lawsuit in the music industry. Whatever one’s thoughts are on such cases running riot throughout the industry, they have no doubt made songwriters a little afraid of wearing their influences on their sleeve in case someone wishes to take advantage of their hard graft and make a quick buck in court. Kudos, therefore, to Leon Bridges who unashamedly expresses his love for 1950s and 1960s soul and R’n’B with his debut album titled ‘Coming Home’. Columbia Records’ PR team may have over done the 1950s/60s theme in the press shots for Bridges and the album, but this does not take the gloss off an LP that pays homage to the music from the American Deep South which possibly influenced all of future music.
Whether it’s the easy melancholic nature of the opening track, ‘Coming Home’, or the doo-op lyrics of ‘Better Man’ the listener is instantly drawn into a time machine and made to feel as if we are extras in the film ‘Stand By Me’. But Bridges’ debut album is not just a throwback to another era; it is a fine example of how one can learn from the past and channel that knowledge into crafting ten songs that are musically and technically perfect.
Music by rock legends such as The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin was deeply rooted in the American blues and for an obvious reason – the rhythm simply makes one want to move! Bridges has taken the same lessons from his peers and with a policy of less-is-more he has produced an album that is simple in nature but powerful in impact. For example, the gentle horn-section undertone of ‘Brown Skin Girl’ will inject a swagger into anyone, whether they a lover of music or not. Bridges continues this infectious feeling throughout the album with a minimalistic raw approach involving a house band, backing vocals and his own honey-dew voice. By doing so, ‘Coming Home’ shows off his natural abilities with songs such ‘Shine’, to which one cannot help sway their body in time with.
The key to Bridges’ success with ‘Coming Home’ is his skill to combine the past with the modern. ‘Smooth Sailin’ may have a retro feel, but it also has a modern funk with guitar riffs which almost verge on Rock ‘n’ Roll. And then on tracks such as ‘Twistin’ & Groovin’ Bridges is even able to combine a touch of the Delta Blues with flickers of Gospel and Country – his very own version of modern fusion. But Bridges saves the best until last with the acoustic closing track, ‘River’ – the lyrics may reflect a different era but the delicacy of the vocals and the outstanding duet with the female singer is reminiscent of the soothing voices of The XX. It sums up the principles of his music – combine the past with the present and keep it simple – and leaves you with a sensation of tranquillity and peace.
‘Coming Home’ is a fantastic introduction to gifted individual who is not afraid to show where his influences come from. With its fine balance of slow and upbeat songs it has something for every occasion. It may not be ground-breaking and he may need to rely less on the throwback element for his follow up album, but it is an excellent showcase for a talent that is sure to blossom.
The full track-listing for ‘Coming Home’ is as follows…