Today marks the debut of Leon Bridges’ freshman album, Coming Home. Although Bridges sounds like he hails from 1963, the soul singer comes to us by way of Fort Worth, Texas. I’ve had my eye on Bridges for nearly a year, after first hearing him on a web stream of Austin’s KKXT. However, it was when Bridges played his first out-of-state show at my favorite hole in the wall, The White Water Tavern in Little Rock, Arkansas, that I fell in love with the 25-year-old old-school romantic. It was after this show that I found Bridges popping up on social media and all but stalked him on Spotify for new releases. After being thrown into a recording studio by members of Austin punk outfit White Denim, Bridges eventually signed with Columbia in December of 2014 and started a national tour in preparation of his album debut. Since beginning his tour Bridges has released several songs on Spotify and Coming Home received national attention with previews on NPR, The Tonight Show, and a number of print outlets to include Huffington Post, Esquire, and The New York Times.
Bridges’ 60s and 70s inspired soul is a time capsule. Dropping the needle on my vinyl copy of Coming Home, echoes of black soul greats resonate throughout the room. In maybe the sexiest song on the album, “River,” Bridges evokes the great Irma Thomas, and I can’t help but think of her “I Need Your Love So Bad,” as both songs could bring the heartbroken to their knees. In songs like “Better Man” and “Coming Home” Bridges pays blatant homage to Sam Cooke, promising to be a better man and return to his baby; while “Brown Skin Girl” might be the cutest song this side of the Mississippi. On “Pull Away” and “Twistin’ & Groovin’” Bridges and his band harmonize to the tune of The Shirrelles and The Soul Stirrers. The deeply touching “Lisa Sawyer” tells the story of his mother’s upbringing in the rural south. Having grown up in Arkansas, this song really hits home. For me, “Lisa Sawyer” is my grandmother growing up in a house with dirt floors, feeding on whatever the day brought, even if that was only the nutrients of the good Lord, in order to get by. This is what soul music is about, and damn it did Bridges nail it. Bridges wraps his old soul in memories of the past, which at the surface feels simply replicative, but his careful consideration of gospel and soul coupled with his sincere story telling ability create an album that is deeply personal for both Bridges and the listener.
I was raised in a home where family dinner was required and I can only recall a hand full of nights growing up that my mother, sister and I didn’t all join in the kitchen to cook while my dad played music. With that, it’s hard to turn on Leon Bridges’ Coming Home and not imagine my mom stirring vegetables in a cast iron skillet while my sister and I spin around to tunes like “Smooth Sailin’.” It is these memories for which I love Leon Bridges. The ability to tell a new story, while recalling those of the past is a gift Bridges truly mastered. It is his unabashed southern soul and affection for his mama that his album debut was marked on my calendar for months. Coming Home is out today and Bridges is touring throughout the year. I’ll be catching him at D.C.’s 9:30 Club in October. Stay tuned for a live review. In the meantime, grab a copy of Coming Home.
Leon Bridges Fall Tour Dates
9 — New Orleans, LA @ Tipitina’s Uptown
13 — Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works
14 — Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
16 — Washington DC @ 930 Club
17 — Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
18 — Boston, Ma @ Royale
20 — New York, NY @ Apollo Theatre
22 — Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre
23 — Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall
24 — Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theatre
26 — Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
27 — Chicago, IL @ The Vic Theatre
28 — Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
30 — Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre
2 — Seattle, WA @ Neptune Theatre
3 — Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
6 — San Diego, CA @ North Park Theater
9 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre
13 — Houston, TX @ House of Blues
14 — Dallas, TX @ Majestic Theatre