My parents come from Mexico and were big on soul music of the 60’s. I grew up listening to the sounds of soul… Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, Otis Redding and many more. They had a certain thing for nostalgia and the days of the past. My parents loved the movie Dirty Dancing, my dad says it reminds him of his childhood (although way less waspy) and my mom would play the soundtrack and those songs left an impression on me, it certainly makes sense as to why I am so fascinated by the sixties.
Enter Leon Bridges. A 25-year-old fellow Texan (Fort Worth native) with a golden voice. His Columbia debut Coming Home was released June 23rd and I have been playing it non-stop ever since.
I remember hearing about him a couple of months ago and wanted to check him out during SXSW but Leon performed to beyond-capacity shows at Hype Hotel as well as The Spotify House. His song, Coming Home, is one of the online streaming platform’s Top 10 Most Viral Tracks of 2015 and picked up the Grulke Prize for Developing US Act (last year’s prize went to Future Islands who went on to get, according to Pitchfork, “about as close as an indie rock band can to being a household name”). It would seem that Leon Bridges will follow a trajectory of stardom.
Lisa Sawyer is a standout track of Leon telling his mothers story, his love for his mother shines through and this song is just like honey, it’s sweet and golden and gospel inspired paired with sugary lyrics like “the complexion of a sweet praline, hair long as the sea, heart warm like Louisiana sun, voice like a symphony” mixed with the a tenor sax solo and that classic girl-group backing harmonies just make the song complete. Better Man is brassy and bursting with upbeat saxophone and reverb that is seriously addicting. Smooth Sailin’ is full-throated and paired with horns even tambourine and gives you nostalgic surf-rock vibes and transforms you to sunny California. Brown Skin Girl is a sultry tune and a beautiful song representation infused with drum-brushed snare claps, and ooh-ooh-oohs. Twistin And Groovin is exactly how it sounds and is a story of how his Grandfather met his Grandmother.
Musically he sounds like Same Cooke but vocally he sounds like Nat King Cole. His vocals have a gentleness and serious Sunday choir-honed chops that sets him apart. His album is audaciously filled with sixties aesthetic complete with backing female singers, organs, complementary horn arrangements, and doo-wops. Leon has Austin Jenkins and Josh Block of Austin-based White Denim.
While the album seems more like one of those brilliant gems that are dust-coated that you discover while crate digging in a vintage record store, I can assure you that as this resurrected genre continues to grow, so will Leon. Soul revival is very much underway, and has been for some time, thanks to the late Amy Winehouse, Alabama Shakes, Raphael Saadiq, and many more artists that have modernized soul into a new era. So whether you’re a new fan or more of a neophyte, Coming Home has something for everyone.