February 22, 2015


One to watch: Leon Bridges (Jude Rogers, Sunday 22 February 2015, The Guardian)

Eighteen months ago, Bridges was washing dishes in a Texas restaurant; three months ago, 40 record labels had shown interest in him. He went for Columbia in the US ("for the vibes") and Communion in the UK (presumably for the success of the label - co-founded by Mumford & Sons' Ben Lovett - with Ben Howard and Michael Kiwanuka). His falling into the vintage soul soup was a roundabout thing. Until only a few years ago, Bridges' interests were dancing and 90s R&B artists like Ginuwine and Usher; he went on to study the former at community college, and still dances now. "I never thought about making music, though." Surely you were aware that you could sing? "I was aware that I could sing, but I wasn't all that confident. That was for other people."

Then along came Sam Cooke. Bridges first heard A Change Is Gonna Come after watching Spike Lee's Malcolm X biopic with his community centre director dad ("anyone hearing a song like that would become curious") but didn't think of him again until he had already started writing songs. A tender one about his mother, Lisa Sawyer, made a rapper friend inquire about Cooke's influence, lighting the touchpaper on a new Bridges obsession. He admits that YouTube and Pandora were his historical tools, rather than record shop rummages. See him in monochrome on his iTunes page now, sleeves rolled up, standing against a clapboard house, and you see an eerie facsimile of the past; some might say a cynical one.

Yet Bridges is obviously devoted. "I became so fascinated with that sound I wanted to recreate it exactly." Why? "It made me happy to make it identical. The simplicity just sounded so good." 

Songs We Love : Leon Bridges, 'Coming Home' (Ann Powers, 2/02/15, NPR)

Recorded live at Jenkins and Block's Niles City Sound studio, using only vintage equipment, "Coming Home" explores the reasons why gospel meeting soul worked so magically at the dawn of the 1960s: the swing, the intimate relationship between background and lead vocals, the way the descending organ line works a pirouette around the triplets Bridges sings. This kind of perfection is always relevant. That's why "Coming Home" helped Bridges become a huge SoundCloud sensation late last fall, and why, in this remixed and remastered version, it will take you away in a very right-now way.

Wonderful World : A big indie-rock band and talented newcomer come together in a likely place. (ANTHONY MARIANI, 8/27/14, Fort Worth Weekly)

It all started at the Near Southside watering hole The Boiled Owl, where Austin Jenkins, guitarist in the major- label Austin/Fort Worth/Dallas indie-rock quartet White Denim, was hanging out with his girlfriend and some friends. Across the bar, they spied a young, stylishly lean African-American man in, yes, high-waisted Wranglers. Jenkins' girlfriend went over to the man and said, "Hey! My boyfriend also wears those kinds of jeans!" And that's how Jenkins and 25-year-old Crowley singer-songwriter Leon Bridges met and became friends.

They didn't even talk about music.

Not, that is, until a month later, after Jenkins, who's from Weatherford but who has been living in Fort Worth for the past few months, caught Bridges performing solo acoustic at Magnolia Motor Lounge as part of a weekly residency hosted by Quaker City Night Hawks co-frontman Sam Anderson. Bridges' brand of old-school, Sam Cooke-inspired R&B blew Jenkins' mind, and not long after that, the two embarked on their current project: recording Bridges' debut album in the empty warehouse adjacent to the newish Near Southside venue/bar/apartment complex Shipping & Receiving with vintage gear provided by White Denim's drummer, Dallasite Josh Block.

Bridges has done some studio recording before but never anything like this. Block, 34, also has done some production work before but never anything like this. And Jenkins has never done any production work, period, but he's thrilled to be steering the ship. His biggest contribution so far has been assembling a crazy-talented backing band for Bridges: The Orbans' Kenny Hollingsworth on guitar, former Orban Cliff Wright on bass, Quaker City Night Hawk Andrew Skates on keys, former Josh Weathers Band saxophonist Jeff Dazey, and, as handpicked by Bridges, numerous backing vocalists. All this plus a couple of random guests and, of course, Jenkins and Block on guitar and drums respectively.

"We're all doing it for the love of [Bridges'] music," Jenkins said recently at the makeshift studio with Bridges and Block.

Posted by at February 22, 2015 7:58 AM

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