Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Leon Bridges is a sensation. Two years ago he was a dishwasher in Texas. Last year his demos sparked a bidding war, and he eventually signed with Columbia. His album went Top 10 on release, and his shows in Vancouver, Toronto and Los Angeles are sold out. These are his shows in October and November, already sold out.

Why? Well, it's a great story and even better, a passionate, fabulous sound. This is soul, and the classic stuff. Bridges, although young, has a taste for the vintage, in sound and clothes and gear. Inspired by the tale of his mother being baptized in a river back in 1963, he wrote the song Lisa Sawyer about it, and also a batch of material which could have come from that year. Then it was all recorded on equipment from the era, with sympathetic players.

He's a passionate singer, and although most comparisons have been to Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, he actually sounds like neither of those performers. He's much rawer than the refined pop-gospel of Cooke, and a little more city than Redding's country soul. Most of the songs have an acoustic guitar base and a gospel vibe. I hear a lot of Arthur Alexander in him, the singer best known from Beatles, Stones, and Dylan covers (Anna, You Better Move On, Sally Sue Brown). The lyrics are simple but heartfelt and to point: "I got a call from my baby, said she's fed up with me." The music is infectious, insanely so. Driving around on a Saturday morning, we just let the CD play over and over.

I can think of a small handful of debut albums over the years that had were hyped and then delivered. These were albums that, as soon as you heard them, you knew they would be instant classics you would love your whole life. For me, that small list includes the first Marshall Crenshaw album, Blue Rodeo's Outskirts, Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True, a few more. Coming Home joins that select group.

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