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Leon Bridges - Gold-Diggers Sound (Album Review)

Tuesday, 27 July 2021 Written by Jacob Brookman

For Leon Bridges’ third album, the Texas soul singer has holed up in a bar-venue-residential studio, the titular Gold-Diggers, on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. The result is a work of elegant soul with a deep sense of place, if not quite time, for ‘Gold-Diggers Sound’ is a record aiming at timelessness, and occasionally succeeding.

Its success can often be attributed to the quality of production and arrangements, which are organic, finely tuned and classic-sounding. An early example of this is on the rumbling toe tapper Steam, which melds tubular guitar riffs with gorgeous vocal blends and memorable hooks. See also the closer Blue Mesas, a satisfying number that does simplicity incredibly well.

Similarly, Sho Nuff has a sweet guitar line leading a pared-back ballad with call and response vocals that feel effortless and immaculate, while a Hammond cameo towards the end gives the track musical breadth and a degree of historical depth.

The organs are very particular instruments—sometimes overpowering, sometimes comedically incongruous—so its innovative use is striking.

That said, there is some pretty pedestrian stuff here. Both Don’t Worry (featuring Ink) and Born Again (featuring Robert Glasper) come and go without much in the way of fanfare. They are workable soul songs but lack the urgency of the stronger material, and lean too fully into easy listening. That’s no crime in itself but it’s probably not what Bridges is reaching for. 

Fundamentally ‘Gold-Diggers Sound’ is a high quality, low risk album that explores a particular sound as opposed to chasing it. In a way, that is laudable—many musicians are frantically trying to keep their music current with a trap drum patch here and some acidic Auto Tune there, whereas Bridges appears to be focused on making his album sound like a modern classic. The problem is, that's not usually how it works.

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