One play, one song. That’s all it took for Leon Bridges to reach me.
“River” – from Leon’s 2015 debut album, Coming Home, spoke to me the way I want my one true love to speak to me: “Take me to your river/I wanna go/Oh, go on/Take me to your river/I wanna know.”
*Deep, drawn out, wistful sigh*
When I asked my friend Olivia if she listened to Leon, she replied: “I only listen to that song, ‘River.’ That song does things to me. It just does things to me. It makes me wanna cry. It’s … emotional.”
Yes, it’s a romantic song, but moving, too. Can you feel its salvation?
Olivia says it helped heal her friend following a breakup: “We had ‘River’ blaring on the speakers. We were going through an insane valley, the aspens were changing, and she was having this big shift in her relationship. I just remember her coming down the hill with tears streaming down her face listening to that song, then talking about how intimate it was.”
“River’s” gospel vibe … combined with lyrics like, “In my darkness I remember/Momma’s words reoccur to me/Surrender to the good Lord/And he’ll wipe your slate clean … ” evokes a spirituality on par with Alison Krauss’ “Down to the River to Pray:”
Now, Leon’s emerging into a whole new phase.
Get ready for the Leon Bridges REMIX with Good Thing. His new album springboards off the 50s/60s throwback feel in Coming Home and soars up into a retro that’s straight outta the future.
Good Thing dropped in early May and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200.
If his first album was Gospel – Sam Cooke and Otis Redding esque – his new sound is Motown: Stevie Wonder meets Marvin Gaye.
My immediate first fav from Good Thing went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 late in May as well: “Bad Bad News.”
This track exemplifies the smooth simplicity that is Leon Bridges.
Because I’m on board with Billboard, my next favorite song on this album was, appropriately, the song that reached No. 2: “Beyond.” It’s relatable: finding love and being afraid to take the leap (what if it’s too good to be true?).
It echoes that wholesomeness so prevalent on his first album: “I’m scared to death that she might be it/That the love is real, that the shoe might fit/She might just be my everything and beyond (beyond)/Space and time in the afterlife/Will she have my kids?/Will she be my wife?”
As exemplified by another lyric in “Beyond” – “Do you think I’m being foolish if I don’t rush in?” – Leon is the king of truisms turned upside down. (Jumping back to “Bad Bad News:” They tell me I was born to lose/But I made a good good thing out of bad bad news”).
Or he lets the platitude hang unfinished; he lets the listener choose their interpretation/ending. For instance, the song title, “If It Feels Good (Then it Must Be),” gives one impression, but the song’s lyrics finish the sentence with: “Bad how much I want you.”
Any human who’s experienced close relationships feels the heart pang of “Forgive.” It’s that friend or lover who keeps doing you wrong, but you love them too much to keep distance. “But I forgive you though my friends tell me not to/I forgive you even when it’s so hard to.”
“Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand,” is my “River” from Leon’s new album as far as grabbing me from the first listen. The song begs us to consider that ever-present question: Is it worth it?
“Shy” harkens back to Coming Home lyrics and mood wise, but flows amid the funky upbeatness that defines Good Thing.
And this song was, like the whole album, absolutely ideal for background music during a day-long marathon of bridesmaids’ hair and makeup at my brother’s recent wedding:
The makeup artists bobbed their heads to Good Thing tracks between brush strokes, saying, “I wish every bridal party would play music like this. It’s so much better than hard rap for these types of events. It fits.”
While Coming Home and Good Thing are soundtracks for different party vibes, they’re both excellent soirée scores. Both Leon Bridges albums are sure shots for tunes that deliver a classic, cool – and in the case of Good Thing – funky feel.
Signing off with “Smooth Sailin'” – Leon’s first No. 1 on the Billboard 100. Leon, I like the way your ship is sailin’ …