Leon Bridges' first strides as an R&B artist prompted comparisons to legends like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, but the native Texan quickly came into his own with the remarkably refined Coming Home (2015) and Good Thing (2018), Top Ten albums that resulted in four Grammy nominations and a win in the category of Best Traditional R&B Performance (for "Bet Ain't Worth the Hand," off the latter). Bridges soon expanded his audience with featured appearances on songs by artists ranging from the similarly tradition-rooted likes of Nick Waterhouse, Kacey Musgraves, and Gary Clark, Jr. to rappers Macklemore and Lecrae. One-offs such as these, along with Texas Sun (2020), an EP recorded with psych synthesists Khruangbin, and Gold-Diggers Sound (2021), his third album, have demonstrated that Bridges is no mere throwback stylist. The singer, songwriter, and guitarist born Todd Michael Bridges honed his talent performing in and around his native Fort Worth, and stirred up music industry interest with SoundCloud uploads of analog recordings produced by Niles City Sound's Joshua Block and Austin Jenkins, then of White Denim. Signed to major-label Columbia, Bridges' first singles, including a rich ballad written about his mother, appeared in February 2015 with a sound that evoked mid- to late-'60s soul. His debut album, Coming Home, followed four months later. It debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best R&B Album. During 2016 and 2017, Bridges was active primarily as a performer and collaborator. He co-wrote and was featured on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Kevin," Nick Waterhouse's "Katchi," and Kacey Musgraves' "Present Without a Bow." Additionally, he recorded "On My Own" with Lecrae (for Birth of a Nation: The Inspired by Album) and connected twice with Gary Clark, Jr., as heard on Live North America 2016, and on a collaborative cover of Neil Young's "Ohio." Work with Aminé and ODESZA was also out by the end of 2017. Early in 2018, Coming Home was certified gold by the RIAA. Shortly thereafter, Bridges released "Bet Ain't Worth the Hand" and "Bad Bad News," and then "Beyond," as the first three songs off his comparatively contemporary and stylistically broader second album, Good Thing, which followed that May and hit the Top Ten. "Bet Ain't Worth the Hand" also earned Bridges his first Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Performance. The intermediary single "That Was Yesterday" was released in 2019. Texas Sun, a four-song collaboration with fellow Lone Star State natives Khruangbin, followed in February 2020. Throughout the year, Bridges either headlined or co-headlined singles with the likes of John Mayer ("Inside Friend"), Terrace Martin ("Sweeter," written in response to the murder of George Floyd), and Lucky Daye ("All About You"), and appeared on the Avalanches' We Will Always Love You. In 2021, Bridges and Keite Young issued a cover of Pastor T.L. Barrett's deep gospel gem "Like a Ship." That May, the lasting appeal of Bridges' recordings were proven when "Coming Home" and "River" were awarded respective gold and platinum RIAA certifications. Preview tracks of Bridges' third album followed shortly thereafter, and in July, he offered Gold-Diggers Sound, titled after the Los Angeles complex where it was made. Among the album's contributors were previous Bridges collaborators such as Nate Mercereau, Ricky Reed, and Dan Wilson, along with We Are King's Paris Strother.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Soul - Released June 19, 2015 | Columbia
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A simple glance at the album cover and 30 seconds of namesake track 'Coming Home' shows clearly where Leon Bridges is coming from. Following in the footsteps of Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson and especially Sam Cooke, this Texan songwriter of just 25 years is a walking mausoleum erected to the eternal glory of soul music. But Bridges is not just simply 'reminiscent' of these legendary artists, with his first album, released at Columbia, containing original music - truly impressive and instanly timeless material! Tidy compositions, worked and arranged with the same care that brought such success to his illustrious peers from the 1960s... Steamy ballads, sensual blues, and up-tempo gospel all have their parts to play here, as Bridges demonstrates a prowess well beyond his young years in every element of his music, singing divinely and somehow managing to be completely original from first to last. On arrival, Coming Home is a soul record that will take purists back to the heyday of the genre. Impeccable in production, and oozing class - one that will surely please fans far and wide.
Soul - Released July 23, 2021 | Columbia
With his 2015 debut Coming Home, Texas musician Leon Bridges injected a cool modern style into classic ’50s and early ’60s soul, making like a brand-new Sam Cooke (right down to the pleated high-waisted trousers and sweater-knit polos). But like Kacey Musgraves, who he has duetted with, Bridges is using his third album as a sort of reinvention—not so much a makeover as an opportunity to spread his wings wider. This time around, he's delving into the smoothest of R&B, and there's little that's retro about it. "Magnolias" employs a trap beat and bright horns to bolster silky vocals from Bridges and guest Ink. She also picks up the female half of a conversation about a relationship on the swamp-sultry "Don't Worry," singing "It wasn't just one time/ Baby, I been living with your lies too long" as a response to Bridges' "Shut you out, you know I tried/ Said I got over you but I lied." Bridges shares the studio with a host of interesting musicians, including pianist Robert Glasper on opener "Born Again,"—a real mood of a song—and Terrace Martin on saxophone for a few tracks, including the excellent "Sweeter." Bridges outlines a harsh reality on that gorgeous and painful song: "Hoping for a life more sweeter/ Instead I'm just a story repeating/ Why do I fear with skin dark as night? ... Did the words of the King disappear in the air like a butterfly?" It's a beautiful, contemplative punch to the gut. Elsewhere, there's a jazzy Earth, Wind & Fire flavor to the sexy "Steam" and Afrobeat rhythms fuel the dreamy and sensual "Motorbike"—which proves that Bridges can illustrate longing with the best of the big-time lovermen. (So do "Details" and "WDYTM," aka "Why Don't You Touch Me," casting Bridges as John Legend with more edge.) Even the 42-second sax-and-brass interlude "Gold-Diggers (Junior's Fanfare)" feels carefully considered, like a palate cleanser from all the vocal richness. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
Soul - Released May 4, 2018 | Columbia
It’s 2018, Leon Bridges is back! Finally… after a debut album released in 2015, the stunning Coming Home, that was a sort of spirit child of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, a soul brother mastering every corner of that sixties groove, the young Texan signs off on an even more eclectic disc: Good Thing. On the first track, Bet Ain't Worth The Hand, he is languid like Curtis Mayfield. Later, he barges in on an 80s funky dance floor with You Don't Know and If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be). Later again, he opts for a velvety nu soul on Shy… These are the general feelings that emerge after a listen to this sophomore album: he never rests on his laurels and sticks with one particular groove. Thus, a general vintage sentiment exits and incomes a plural groove. At this rate, Leon Bridges might do a bit of auto tuning on his third record... © Max Dembo/Qobuz