Good Thing

Leon Bridges

Columbia, 2018

http://leonbridges.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/16/2018

Leon Bridges’ debut Coming Home was a fine album but felt a bit too retro, like the artist was more concerned with recreating the sound and feel of an era than in developing a unique voice. On Good Thing, Bridges keeps a similar sonic approach but pushes the production and overall feel a bit more modern, which on balance makes this a better album.

The slam-dunk best track here is the second one, “Bad Bad News,” which injects urgency into Bridges’ smooth voice on a tale about self-confidence in the face of negativity: “They tell me I was born to lose / But I made a good good thing out of bad bad news / I don't worry, don't worry, don't worry about people in my face / I hit 'em with the style and grace, and watch their ankles break.” The song is both jazz and pop and features an extended instrumental coda complete with an electric piano solo, and it’s a killer starting point for Bridges if you somehow missed nbtc__dv_250 Coming Home.

Almost as good is “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be”), in which Bridges looks at a smirking Bruno Mars and shows him how it’s done. “Forgive You” seems placid but covers a quietly intense sentiment and vocal performance, stepping away from traditional male bragging with an entire song about forgiving someone who hurt you and hoping to make amends.

And as he did on the previous album, Bridges closes the disc with a gospel-influenced track of personal meaning on “Georgia To Texas.” Over a sparse acoustic jazz backing, the singer recounts his rather tough upbringing (“Got my brother’s hand-me-down clothes / We had no green but the love was strong”) in what ends up as a lovely ode to his mother. The song doesn’t really have a hook or melody – a risk, in these musical times – but its sparseness is oddly hypnotic, and Bridges paints a vivid portrait. You can almost see the smoke in the air and the peach trees flying by your car window on the dusky drive that Leon took, so many years ago.

Bridges has one of those voices that fits like a comfortable sweatshirt, one that you’ve heard before in the guise of Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye and John Legend. It imbues the 10 songs here with warmth and immediacy, allowing Bridges to effortlessly glide from ruminations on dating and frank sex talk to a look back at his roots while finding time for dancing. If Coming Home was the sound of an artist paying homage to his forebears, Good Thing is what happens when that artist takes what’s he learned and pushes forward with it.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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