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Album: Leon Bridges - Gold-Diggers Sound | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Leon Bridges - Gold-Diggers Sound

Album: Leon Bridges - Gold-Diggers Sound

Liquid soul music offers bracing uplift in Texan star's third

The sleeve splices Little Richard and Sam Cooke in an archaic, explosive burst of ecstasy. Neo-soul star Leon Bridges’ third album doesn’t settle in the past, though.

Taped far from his Forth Worth, Texas hometown in Hollywood, local clubland sounds helped fuel its liquid summer drift, a quiet storm brewed in nocturnal sessions over hip-hop beats, and burnished by jazz brass. At its heart, Bridges’ voice has the tender, aerated grace of the great soul singers before him. But broader R&B currents breeze through Gold-Diggers Sound.

Robert Glasper, the keyboardist whose album Black Radio (2012) put him at jazz, R&B and hip-hop’s crossroads, guests on opener “Born Again”. He’s a floaty, abstract element in an album whose straightforward loverman sentiments are borne by flowing music, from the rubbery Afrobeat percussion and guitar of “Steam” to Bridges’ edgeless slur and blur. An acoustic guitar backs that languid voice’s close-up grain on “Magnolia”, as it promises “nothing feels better than being here with you”. “Details” and “Sho Nuff” are similarly reverent to lovers, somewhat trite lyrics soaring when Bridges breaks for the wordless, high heavens. These are erotic reveries, reaching for supernal bliss.

“Sweeter” is a soft prayer for the bruised hopes of black people still being killed because of “skin dark as night”. A thin synth line like fading life-support, a rhythmic patter resembling fragile heartbeats and Terrace Martin’s soft sax phrases back Bridges as he becomes the voice of a dead young black man, with “the tears of my mother” falling on his coffin, as “my sisters and my brothers, sang, sang over me”. “Did the words of the King disappear into the air?” he wonders, as promises extracted by MLK in Sam Cooke’s day stay unredeemed. “Blue Mesas”’ cello-adorned, sorrowful journey through male depression shows similarly broadened horizons, its gorgeously symphonic synth-gospel singing a modern blues.

Bridges mainly offers uplift in other ways, though. Gold-Diggers Sound is its own better place and time, not separate from the stresses outside, but a creamy balm to their aches.

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