Music review: Leon Bridges' debut Coming Home - '50s throwback triumph
Everything about 25-year-old Texan soul and gospel singer Leon Bridges is vintage. From the aesthetic cover art and retro threads on his back, to the nostalgic doo-wopping and the authentic analogue equipment that was used to record his debut album, Coming Home, Bridges is a breezy throwback to the 1950s and '60s R&B era.
With a smooth and timeless voice channelling the classic heartfelt soul of the great Sam Cooke, Bridges was still working as a dishwasher when he was discovered at an open-mic night by Texan psych rockers White Denim. While the retro R&B sound has certainly been milked to death (thank you Adele, Sam Smith, etc), the impressively warm old-school groove of Coming Home certainly sets Bridges apart from the rest of the pack.
The swinging beat of Smooth Sailin' blends the singer's golden tones beautifully with the brass horns; his effortless croon - "Said I like the way/ You sail your ship down/ Let me be your cargo" - is sure to buckle knees and melt hearts across the world. The deep sax and sultriness continues with Better Man ("What can I do/ to get back to your heart/ I'd swim the Mississippi River/ If you would give me another start girl") before Shine gloriously embraces a slow gospel groove.
Bridges is rightly unapologetic about his obvious influences - his sound is so genuine that it's hard to throw accusations of being derivative.
However humble and impressive this debut is, you sense the feeling that with Coming Home, Bridges is only just dipping his toes into the water and, on this showing, he likely has more than a classic album or two bubbling deep within him.
Leon Bridges Coming Home (Columbia)