The music that flows out of Texas always has a different feel from other Southern states, like the flat bare landscape the music is a lot closer to the bone. Back in the 60's Texas was never really known as a beacon of southern soul that mantle was left to other well known locales, Memphis and Muscle Shoals coming to mind. Hailing from Fort Worth Texas Leon Bridges has given southern soul a distinct Texas feel, stripped back and subtle but with great feeling and depth. He may not possess a fire and brimstone voice but he has a way of expressing with clarity and emotion with a gospel feel that permeates each song. Coming Home has a vintage sound, like it was recorded at some tiny southern studio with egg cartons for baffles and bugs in the control board. The beauty is that every nuance is captured, the soft soulful guitar lines reminiscent of Steve Cropper and the sly crescendo of the organ.
The more strident Better Man has Bridges in remorseful tones begging for a second chance, the sound is crisp to the point where you can hear the drummer's ride cymbal echoing into the vocal. That lo fi feel perfectly suits each song on the album, where Better Man has a doo wop refrain Brown Skinned Girl goes for a more Impressions style vocal style with a honking sax playing discreet interludes. Shine is pure gospel with some organ work that is reminiscent of the great Spooner Oldham at Fame studios in the early to mid 60's. The elegant Lisa Sawyer harks back to the early years of soul circa 1963 sounding like the Impressions, the doo wop backing vocals and the slow caressing sax, this is a gem. The song was inspired by the story of Bridges' mothers baptism,
She was born in New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana
Branded with the name Lisa Sawyer
Twistin & Groovin sounds like a distorted slowed down version of the classic Kansas City, with some nice slide work eerily familiar to the sound of Duane Allman when he was working at Fame studios. River is Bridges' A Change is Gonna Come, opening with an acoustic guitar and then the chorus with those gospel harmonies so understated yet so powerful. Bridges sings of finding redemption from the darkest corners, the almighty river offering a clean slate. The Mississippi River always comes to mind, being the centre of a cultural and spiritual legacy there always seemed to be something in those muddy waters that healed the wounded spirit.
Oh, I wanna come near and give ya
Every part of me
But there is blood on my hands
And my lips aren't clean
Coming Home has an interesting back story, Bridges was performing at open mic nights around Fort Worth when he met two members of Austin based band White Denim, guitarist Austin Jenkins and drummer Joshua Block. After hearing him perform he was invited to record at their Niles City Sound recording studio where they produced his debut album.