Leon Bridges stole my heart the day I moved out of my dorm the summer of my freshman year in college. His song, “River,” found its way into my queue after playing a random indie playlist titled “Moving Out/Starting Over.” To no surprise, I was instantaneously drawn to his silky and raspy tones that ignite the lyrics of his songs.
Bridges hasn’t left my Top 5 Artist list on my Spotify Wrapped ever since. Like many soul-inspired and folky R&B artists, Bridges has a way of transporting listeners to an alternate time. A Texas boy at heart, his work is infused with the blues and gospel-like melodies one might expect. However, he does an impeccable job at integrating story-telling into his discography as well.
In an interview with Billboard magazine, Bridges shares that in “Twistin’ and Groovin,” he’s telling the story of how his grandparents met: “Sweet little girl from the ninth ward in New Orleans, the way she dancing, you could see her from Tennessee.” I’d like to think that in “Brown Skinned Girl,” Bridges writes about his own story with a past lover he held dear to his heart. While the lyrics are sweet and sincere, he’s also found a way to capture the rawness of heartache.
You can hear the smoothness of the saxophone and the warm, comforting sensation it adds to songs like “Better Man” and “Daisy Mae.” Ever watched the 1987 film Dirty Dancing featuring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray? Well, there’s no doubt that the romantic hues of this album will make you want to recreate some scenes with a dancing partner.
Bridges has spoken about what he aims to communicate through his music. “I don’t like to write flashy soul songs,” says Bridges. “I’m writing from the heart, stories about family and truth.” His authenticity is awe-inspiring — he’s crafting a sound so unique yet so reminiscent of artists like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. Alex Szeptycki said it best “this music could have been made 40 years ago — or yesterday.”
Gold-Diggers Sound is Bridges’ new album that was released in July of this year. He hones in on the R&B tunes in this one, and I feel it’s a lot more thematic and introspective than anything he’s ever released. In “Blue Mesas,” he sings: “Aint no peace at the top…How you get lonely even tho you surrounded by the ones you know?” In this song, Bridges describes his relationship with fame and the people you lose along the way. The album’s ninth track, “Sweeter featuring Terrace Martin,” was written from the perspective of a Black man taking his last breath while his spirit leaves his body. Bridges spoke about what led him to write and release this song: “The death of George Floyd was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I am George Floyd, my brothers are George Floyd, and my sisters are George Floyd. I cannot and will not be silent any longer.” The lyrics seize the pain and anguish Bridges feels, and they carry the love he hopes to give back through his music.
The album is actually named after the Hollywood hotel studio bar where he worked for two years crafting this emotionally vulnerable piece. Bridges took his time to carefully develop the Afrobeat, jazz and country sounds that make this album so special and expressive.
Leon makes music for the soul — I’m excited to see where this album takes him as his musical identity continues to evolve. I hope I’ve convinced you to add some of his songs to your playlists, his groovy and eclectic style will surely have you hooked.