In 2015, Leon Bridges was universally praised for the vintage R&B sound he so deftly discharged on his debut album Coming Home; the record was hailed as the tender blues contemporary to Otis Redding’s The Dock Of The Bay (1968), and fans of the 28-year-old Texan have remained loyal for the three years it’s taken for a second full-length release to appear. With Good Thing, Bridges says he allowed his mind and pen to go wherever they wanted.
“This process was very liberating, because there weren’t any boundaries – we didn’t have a certain sound that we wanted to reach,” he explains. “As you can see, the album is diverse! We just tried different things. I wanted to really make something that was reflective of the different styles of R&B that I like.”
When Bridges says “R&B,” he could mean ‘rhythm and blues’ in the style of jazz-based African American blues from the ‘40s and ‘50s from artists like Fats Domino, Bo Diddley and Sam Cooke. Or he could mean ‘contemporary R’n’B’, which refers to the ‘80s incantation which blended in elements of hip hop, dance and funk. But splitting style-hairs doesn’t really matter in this instance, because Good Thing mines it all.
If It Feels Good and Forgive You have a real disco, Bruno Marsy feel, but in between them is the mega-sparse Lions, which leans so far back on the beat it nearly falls over. “I think having all that space really lets the vocal shine,” Bridges says. “I feel like on big songs, with a lot of stuff going on, sometimes my vocal can be drowned out… I love that song.” Meanwhile the gorgeous Beyond sounds as if it could slot into the smitten missives of Andre 3000’s The Love Below. “It’s crazy when you feel yourself falling in love with somebody, but for me personally, I’m held back because I just feel like I’m not ready to go into that zone,” Bridges says. “That’s what that whole song is about: me having a conversation with my mother about this girl… I feel like anybody can relate to it.”
For fans, it won’t be surprising Mrs. Bridges’ influence permeates Good Thing, and just as on her son’s previous album her story rises to the surface via a beautifully bittersweet closing track. “That one is basically vignettes of my narrative,” Bridges explains of the stand-out Georgia To Texas, adding that the magnificent saxophone is the work of his good friend Jeff Dazey. “That’s a special song for me. I wanted to make something in the vein of a new version of River. It starts out talking about my mother who was a New Orleans native – ‘504 girl’, that’s the area code of New Orleans,” he says. “Then her moving to Atlanta, and me being born in Georgia, then moving to Texas, and my experience in high school. And then even further: losing my virginity to a prostitute, and then me falling in love with music. I’ve never really put myself out there in song like that. But I felt that it was necessary. I feel like it really brings everything home.”
Good Thing is out May 4 via Sony.
Read our review of the album.
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