Leon Bridges – Gold-Diggers Sound (Deluxe) (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/44,1kHz | Time – 00:39:25 minutes | 400 MB | Genre: Soul, R&B
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Columbia
The Texas singer delivers a smooth, risk-averse R&B album whose nostalgic trappings aim for timelessness.
Gold-Diggers Sound, the title of Leon Bridges’ new album, is also a tribute to the place it was recorded, a newly swanky hotel/bar/studio in East Hollywood called Gold-Diggers. It’s good branding for Bridges, who has always presented himself and his music as timeless, which is to say, of a better time, somewhere back in the sepia-toned 20th century. The sense of place suggested by a studio on Santa Monica Boulevard would seem to harken back to that time, and it sets the tone for Bridges’ Hollywood record, which is what this album seeks to be.
What does that mean, beyond the title? Vocal stylings that occasionally sound like those of Frank Ocean; lilting, drawn-out vowels; and an understated delivery that can bely the power of Bridges’ show-stopping voice. Mastering from Daddy Kev, co-founder of the Low End Theory and a Los Angeles musician’s musician par excellence. And features from the talented multi-instrumentalist Terrace Martin and pianist Robert Glasper, both of whom helped out on To Pimp a Butterfly, that maximalist portrait of the city.
Gold-Diggers Sound is far from maximalist. In the tradition of Bridges’ work, it’s a smooth, risk-averse R&B record, pleasant to the ear and lacking in any songs that would shake up one’s impression of the Texan soul singer. But it’s an album made with extraordinary care, and while it sometimes flirts with tedium, Bridges’ voice and producers Ricky Reed and Nate Mercereau’s subtle instrumental choices keep many of its songs out of the valley of the bland.
With his 2015 debut Coming Home, Texas musician Leon Bridges injected a cool modern style into classic ’50s and early ’60s soul, making like a brand-new Sam Cooke (right down to the pleated high-waisted trousers and sweater-knit polos). But like Kacey Musgraves, who he has duetted with, Bridges is using his third album as a sort of reinvention—not so much a makeover as an opportunity to spread his wings wider. This time around, he’s delving into the smoothest of R&B, and there’s little that’s retro about it. “Magnolias” employs a trap beat and bright horns to bolster silky vocals from Bridges and guest Ink. She also picks up the female half of a conversation about a relationship on the swamp-sultry “Don’t Worry,” singing “It wasn’t just one time/ Baby, I been living with your lies too long” as a response to Bridges’ “Shut you out, you know I tried/ Said I got over you but I lied.” Bridges shares the studio with a host of interesting musicians, including pianist Robert Glasper on opener “Born Again,”—a real mood of a song—and Terrace Martin on saxophone for a few tracks, including the excellent “Sweeter.” Bridges outlines a harsh reality on that gorgeous and painful song: “Hoping for a life more sweeter/ Instead I’m just a story repeating/ Why do I fear with skin dark as night? … Did the words of the King disappear in the air like a butterfly?” It’s a beautiful, contemplative punch to the gut. Elsewhere, there’s a jazzy Earth, Wind & Fire flavor to the sexy “Steam” and Afrobeat rhythms fuel the dreamy and sensual “Motorbike”—which proves that Bridges can illustrate longing with the best of the big-time lovermen. (So do “Details” and “WDYTM,” aka “Why Don’t You Touch Me,” casting Bridges as John Legend with more edge.) Even the 42-second sax-and-brass interlude “Gold-Diggers (Junior’s Fanfare)” feels carefully considered, like a palate cleanser from all the vocal richness. – Shelly Ridenour
1. Leon Bridges – Born Again
2. Leon Bridges – Motorbike
3. Leon Bridges – Steam
4. Leon Bridges – Why Don’t You Touch Me
5. Leon Bridges – Magnolias
6. Leon Bridges – Gold-Diggers (Junior’s Fanfare)
7. Leon Bridges – Details
8. Leon Bridges – Sho Nuff
9. Leon Bridges – Sweeter
10. Leon Bridges – Don’t Worry
11. Leon Bridges – Blue Mesas
12. Leon Bridges – Summer Rain