Leon Bridges is bringing back soul with his album Coming Home. Photo by Andrew Brennan.
Leon Bridges is single-handedly bringing back soul music. His debut album, Coming Home, is a fresh breath of 1960s air and a must listen for any music fan missing the sweet sounds of soul artists like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. The 26-year-old from Forth Worth, Texas is poised to become this generation’s great soul singer.
Bridges’ Coming Home kicks off with the album’s first single and title track. It feels like a song by The Drifters, and sounds like something you found in your grandparents’ collection and had to blow the dust off before playing. The song, like the rest of the album, is a combination of smooth and grainy. It simultaneously sounds like the first and the last time you ever fell in love. It combines the raw emotion of your youth, with a certain level of wisdom you can only achieve through growing older. The song Coming Home sets the table for the rest of the album. It travels through your ears to your heart, and lets you know Bridges is about to take you on a journey through this mind and soul.
The album’s second single and its fourth song is Smooth Sailin’. Musically, it couldn’t be any different from Coming Home. It takes the percussion and brass elements of a song like Otis Redding’s Hard to Handle and completely modernizes them. It transcends time. This is a song you could have heard at a party in 1950, or in 2015. You’ll be wishing you were singing Coming Home to your girl, and dancing to Smooth Sailin’.
Bridges transitions from the bluesy soul sounds of Coming Home and the jazzed up Smooth Sailin’ directly into the gospel-esque Shine. If you didn’t know any better, you would think one Bridges’ primary influences was gospel music. However, in an interview with Wax Poetics, Bridges said his mom was very religious, so he would wait until she went to work to listen to R&B. He says he was inspired by artists such as Ginuwine, Usher, 112 and Dru Hill.
But Bridges credits legendary soul singer Sam Cooke as the person who truly helped him find his voice. In an article by The Guardian, he said he first heard A Change is Gonna Come in Spike Lee’s Malcom X, but didn’t really take it in until he started writing songs himself. It was then when Bridges realized that was the sound he wanted to recreate in his own music.
Bridges may not have been as musically inspired by his mother’s religious backgrounds as his sound would suggest, but she leaves her imprint on the album. The sixth song on the album is titled Lisa Sawyer, for his mother. If you hear Sam Cooke in any song on this album, it’s this one. Perhaps the bluesiest of his songs, Lisa Sawyer takes the elements you hear in the album’s first five songs and blends them all. The fusion of soul, smooth jazz, gospel and that hint of his R&B influence make this track absolutely irresistible.
The most magical part of this album is Bridges’ ability to mix in the sounds of the ‘50s and make them as enjoyable as he does. This is especially impressive in an era when we are constantly overwhelmed by computerized sounds and stiff musical structure. Bridges infiltrates your joints with his music, and makes not moving along an impossible feat.
Leon Bridges’ Coming Home is a special album. That can’t be said for many of today’s projects. We are treated to good, sometimes great, records each year. But to make something so uniquely beautiful, is what makes this album truly special. The music industry would be lucky to have more Leon Bridges. If you want to be reminded of a time when music made you feel genuinely happy, you need to listen to Coming Home. The year 2015 has soul, courtesy of Leon Bridges.