Coming Home was his retro-soul break-out which meshed tradition with authentic heart. On Good Thing he dipped his tasselled loafers into 24K Magic pop territory. Now, Gold-Diggers Sound sees Leon Bridges endeavour to bend his steps into a truer R’n’B domain, with messages closer to his heart – and by George, he’s done it.
That’s not a figure of speech: first single Sweeter feat. Terrace Martin (who has produced for Kendrick Lamar) is a tribute to the late George Floyd; in a statement accompanying its release, Bridges said of Floyd’s death: “It was the first time I wept for a man I never met. I am George Floyd, my brothers are George Floyd, and my sisters are George Floyd. I cannot and will not be silent any longer.” The track’s unhurried, gently tickering R’n’B beat daubed with bell-like electric piano and breathy sax is not the anomaly on Gold-Diggers Sound – it’s the golden rule.
Bridges has created an album continually textured and tactile, with an in-studio feel to the muted and slightly cracked horns in tracks like Born Again and the mysterious, 40-second-long New Orleans-style lament Gold-Diggers. The man’s contemplative, sensual vocals commit to laying back on the beat, and harmonies interlace blissfully with deep, lush keys (do not operate heavy machinery while listening to Motorbike or Magnolias).
Though you might hear the poignant yearning of Frank Ocean, the meticulous detail of Steve Lacy, the ethereal sensibilities of Cliff Martinez or the echoes of the soul tradition where Bridges began amongst these tracks, its sophistication isn’t borrowed from anywhere at all – it’s utterly Bridges’ own, and it’s completely irresistible.
Gold-Diggers Sound by Leon Bridges is out on CD July 23, with JB-exclusive gold vinyl (pictured above) arriving July 30, via Sony.
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