DULUTH – MUSIC – It’s said he dresses like his music. Twenty five year old American Leon Bridges wears retro 1950’s fashions while strumming his guitar delivering songs with the clarity of a cardinal atop a bobbing bull rush by a summer marsh.
His voice has such clarity and control it’s a feature, in his musical repertoire, that has magnetized newspaper and magazine reviewers to compare him to the legendary Sam Cooke.
Recently listening to Bridges first CD titled Coming Home his methods in song brought moments where switching to another time and re-hearing both SAM Cooke as well as Otis Redding was quite providential. Bridges embodies their kindred spirits in his scales and magnificent tones.
Take Bridges composition The River. His gospel like approach to lifting a congregational audience, and gently modifying a mood with the gentle rhythm of a sax mixed with a chorus of background voices may bring this song a fitting place as one of the year’s most memorable original swing rhythm recasts of Cooke’s era. It is timeless. Ongoing. Spiritual. And most endearingly so musically inspiring.
To think only four years ago Bridges was washing dishes at a restaurant to make ends meet in Texas where he lives. A musical critic claimed, “but Bridges possesses a wide broad grin that matches the white collars of the shirts he sports.”
Bridges says he has always known his life would parcel both his love of guitar and song into a format he wants to bring out for the who,e world to hear.
Witness the touching song Lisa Sawyer written and sung for his grandmother. “She was born in New Orleans. In 1951. In Louisiana…” It’s a song built-on like a carpenter adding a fresh porch to the housing of where he calls home. Bridges’ gift is an art form delivered with the freshness of a morning breeze wafting a curtain at an open window. One imagines his relatives shedding a few tears of joy attending the recording sessions in compiling Coming Home with his compassionate little band Jeff Dazey (saxophone) Josh Block (drums) Austin Jenkins (guitar) Kenny Wayne Hollingsworth (electric guitar) Andrew Skates (organ) and a choir of Orioles led by Brittni Jessie, Beth Riley, Ele Chupik and Katie Robertson. Earths’ Gumbo published the songs written by Todd Bridges.
This last week, in June, Leon Bridges was a featured young rising star at the Glastonbury Festival min the United Kingdom. He goes into a summery Tour of Europe over the next weeks.
Yet this spring he showed up at an impromptu–and stunning–live performance on a small blues stage in Chicago. A neat touch.
“I want my stories to just be like spiritual songs,” Bridges comments. “You know there is a discipline to washing dishes. Doing things over time and again. Well, music has that repetition with a polish that comes from just spinning one tine after another.
Leon Bridges is fittingly being applauded energetically by those who’ve been charmed by the matriculation in his thrilling voice. His groove. And his uniqueness as a flashback to Sam Cooke will certainly glide one into his entertaining passion and persuasive performances. His newness is so crisp. So riveting and sustained in songs like Flowers, Pull Away, Twisting and Grooving and, naturally, Bridges’ melancholy theme Song Coming Home. All rightfully receiving air time at what one believes is truly a special time in the United States and elsewhere. A time for songs to wash over our dusty, sometimes drooping spirits, with a fresh current of energy.
Invigorating our hearts with a young musician’s grooviness that will replay a very special chord in concentration each time one hears it. Like a bird at your morning window. Declaring something as simply humble as: behold a new day. Awaits you!