Leon Bridges is a refreshing breath of cool air from a by-gone era, where doo-wops, shoo-bap-baps and sharp suits reigned supreme, and he’s enviously blessed with an innate musical talent, and one of those voices that’s as smooth as velvet. His debut album Coming Home is a masterwork of soul, tinged with gospel, and it stirs something deep inside you that most of the overly-manufactured swill around us today just can’t even get close to touching.
The young Atlanta native graced many an open-mic night in Fort Worth in his early days and the buzzings from that led to a scramble by record labels, falling over each other chasing after signature. He eventually decided to set up camp with Columbia in 2014 where he was then left to his own devices and has put together a gorgeous debut with a vintage sound that speaks straight from his Southern heart.
Bridges is 25 years old. Just take a moment to let that sink in. Then keep it in mind as you’re listening to the charms of his soul-gospel. And keep in mind that this has been released now, in your lifetime, in a world where skinny jeans and selfie-sticks have meanwhile taken over. It makes Coming Home all the more fresh, and all the more unique, despite it stemming from a sound that’s centuries old. It’s what the world needs more of, a collection of songs to remind us of a time when music was pure, and not watered-down by the bleeps and glitches of technology.
It’s almost as if Bridges doesn’t quite fit into the world we’re living in. Or, that he chooses not to. He practically says as much in the album’s title-track, the one that announced him to the world a year ago: “the world leaves a bitter taste in my mouth”. It’s a declaration that belies his age. It’s usually one reserved for those that have walked this Earth for at least twice the time that Bridges has. That’s generally around the time you start to feel jaded. But it speaks volumes of his character.
It gives you a suspicion that the things that our lives revolve around don’t seem to play a part in his sepia-tinged world. It suggests that Bridges wouldn’t think twice about travelling Back To The Future. That if he was caught in a perpetual cycle of living that school dance scene from the film over and over, he’d be alright with that. Even more so if he was the one performing at it over and over.
Bridges does have one thing in common with the 25-year olds of today: girls. They’re on his mind. But that’s where the similarities end. It’s his old soul sitting behind his young heart that lends a chivalrous charm to proceedings, an approach lost on most of today’s younger generation. He promises to “swim the Mississippi River” to woo the object of his desire in the shuffling “Better Man“.
Promises of bold acts like that, to win over love are almost extinct in the swipe-left-swipe-right age we’re now living in. The girls he’s chasing just ooze so much more class too. They’re “ruby-lipped” and in a “polka-dot dress” (“Brown Skin Girl“), and don’t need “no shiny jewellery” (“Twistin & Groovin’“). Timeless, natural beauties. No spray-on tan or caked-on make-up in sight.
The sumptuously smooth music of the album reels you back to a time when people were happy being “rich in love” (“Lisa Sawyer“). In today’s life of material distractions and desires, you can forget that’s what life is really about. There’s a golden sheen that sits on Bridges’ debut, one from a vintage era, and like this vintage era, Coming Home possesses an effortless cool and an irresistible charm. Leon Bridges’ Coming Home is out now via Columbia Records, purchase it here.
Words by Oli Kuscher