Gold-Diggers Sounds by Leon Bridges album review by Adam Williams for Northern Transmissions

Columbia Records/Lisa Sawyer63

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Leon Bridges

Gold-Diggers Sounds

For album three, Leon Bridges fully embraced his craft by literally living, breathing, and in a lot of cases, drinking the ideas that would eventually manifest as ‘Gold-Diggers Sound’. Over a 24 month period the Texan decamped to a Los Angeles studio that bares the same name as his latest LP “I spent two years jamming in what often felt like a musician’s paradise. We effortlessly moved from dancefloor to the studio.

We would be finishing our tequilas at 10:00am and waking up with coffee and getting to work at 10:00pm. It was all for the love of R&B and musicianship. This is my most sensual and confident album to date and I cannot wait to unleash it.” For a record clearly spawned from a hedonistic incubation period, it comes as a surprise that Bridges’ newest body of work is also his most melancholic, instead of the up-beat soul from years gone by, we find our protagonist in a contemplative mode. Thematically, the album follows similar narratives to his previous outings, mostly love, either lost, troubled or head over heels. Sonically, it combines slick modernist beats with more traditional brass flourishes that border jazz and funk. And of course Bridges’ immaculate voice that oozes like sweet and salted caramel.

The mood is set by opener ‘Born Again’, with its glassy jazz tones and lonesome sax that are eventually teamed with taut drum beats and delicate nuances. Bridges adopts a soothing delivery, as he muses “I find peace in the valley of your truth” and “your love will last forever”. The early inclusion of brass projects an understated yet impassioned texture and make repeated appearances as the record unfurls. ‘Steam’ sashays with a gentle groove, where a light jazz-funk bop wiggles with a playfulness that’s mirrored by the Texan’s wordplay “I miss your smile and the wild things you say”. There’s an ‘us against the world’ defiance to ‘Motorbike’ as it trips along with its beats and bubbling textures, where Bridges paints the picture of him and his suitor speeding over the horizon on two wheels. The velvetiness of ‘Magnolias’ is palpable, like the plushest of sofas in the swankiest up-town hotels. Guitar sparkles contort with rigid beats before a subtle swoon of brass is added to the mix. Like a low key serenade, you can imagine Bridges smoothly operating as he coos “you’re all I need in this world”.

There are moments on ‘Gold-Diggers Sound’ where Bridges is clearly loved up, while conversely there are other occurrences where the course of true love hits some choppy waters. In a stripped back affair with a brittle guitar moan and a crisp arrangement of beats, Bridges can be heard murmuring “I’ve been feeling way to undesired/before the flame went out all around us was on fire/I can feel the distance go for miles/but cold is all you are/and it’s causing me chills”. ‘Sweeter’s murky beats and reverb laden vocals cut a despondent tone, where we find Bridges going through some soul searching as he states “Can’t feel peace with those judging eyes/the tears of my mother/rain, rain over me” In collaboration with vocalist Ink, Bridges recounts a tale of tangled love via ‘Don’t Worry’, as the two singers exchange verses about their relationship coming to stuttering full stop. There’s an underlying sorrow to the track, while both parties put on a brave face, you can still tell they’re hurting, which is exemplified by “don’t worry about me/it’s over but I’ll cope” when the true meaning of the words are quite the opposite when you read between the lines. ‘Gold-Diggers Sound’ is brought to a close by the withdrawn, low-key cinematics of ‘Blue Mesas’, a song that swoons with a dark, mournful bevy of strings and subtle percussion taps. It’s the perfect canvas for Bridges voice to be daubed large as he reflects on his own vulnerability, although he admits showing his true emotions isn’t always easy “there’s a hurting deep down in my soul/but I learnt never to let it show”.

Everything about ‘Gold-Diggers Sound’ is subtle yet precise, where you can tell Bridges and his team of collaborators, including Robert Glasper, Terrance Martin and more poured their hearts and souls into its making with the freedom to fully embrace whatever came to mind. An exquisite album by a mercurial talent.

Pre-order Gold-Diggers Sounds by Leon Bridges HERE