You spin in a circle, hands clasped in the grip of your loved one. You both count down from three and fall back onto the grassy cushion. You roll to the bottom of the hill, where everyone from your town are gathered and celebrating lord knows what. Lights on strings are strewn through the trees, and laughter fills the warm air. A band is setting up on a nearby stage. Someone inquires with “you heard a’ these cats?” and you haven’t. You sit and listen . . .
It’s time to take a much needed trip back to the soulful past. Coming Home is the debut full-length from Leon Bridges, a singer with a voice of golden butter. This artist wholeheartedly invokes the nostalgic sounds of classic r&b on this record, but he succeeds in carving out a place for his unique persona to thrive. Even though these songs are brand new, they sound like they could be pristine hits from a vintage era.
Bridges is in good company when it comes to his backing band, consisting of Josh Block and Austin Jenkins from White Denim. This duo of proficient studio wizards match Bridges’ mentality perfectly, with fuzzed-out guitars and organ, honky-tonk horn arrangements, and some gorgeous, gospel-tinged backing vocals. It’s the ideal environment for this past-minded singer to take center stage and flourish.
And damn, does he flourish. Bridges approaches such a delicate and historically-lauded style with the grace of a champion. Hopelessly romantic balladry is this man’s forte, but his voice also shines when accompanied by more upbeat, hip-shaking instrumentation on “Smooth Sailin’,” “Flowers,” and “Twistin’ & Groovin’.” Have a beating heart? You’ll be into this one. If you’re seeking soulful, classic r&b, this album is for you.
– stasi (@stasisphere)