Tenacity is baked into Southern soul. It’s there within the grain and dedication of the singing, within the patiently rolling grooves, in how its down-to-earth tales unfold. It’s there in the way in which the music holds on to blues and gospel roots linked to deeper African ancestry. And it’s there in the way in which the sound persists and adapts by way of a long time, discovering new rhythms however nonetheless testifying from the center.
“Gold-Diggers Sound,” the third album by the Texas songwriter Leon Bridges, presents his personalised survival technique for Southern soul. Bridges sings about its basic matters in songs that take their time and experience pure, unvarnished singing. He pledges sensual romance in “Magnolias,” does some dishonest (with duet vocals from Atia “Ink” Boggs) in “Don’t Fear About Me” and affirms his religion in “Born Once more.” Round him, the music makes use of artificial textures, programmed beats and surreal layering to hold a decades-old custom into the twenty first century.
“Sweeter,” which Bridges launched in June 2020 after the police homicide of George Floyd, attracts grace from mourning. The narrator is a lifeless man together with his mom, sisters and brothers weeping over him. “I believed we moved on from the darker days,” Bridges sings, over a pattering entice beat and Terrace Martin’s measured electric-piano chords; he provides, “Somebody ought to hand you a felony/Since you stole from me my likelihood to be.”
“I can’t and won’t be silent any longer,” Bridges stated in an announcement on the time. “Simply as Abel’s blood was crying out to God, George Floyd is crying out to me.”
Bridges, 32, has labored his approach ahead by way of soul-music historical past. His first album, “Coming House” in 2015, launched a singer who harked again to an period effectively earlier than he was born. His voice recalled the suavity of Sam Cooke and the grit of Otis Redding, and his music was unabashedly revivalist Sixties soul. Bridges moved the timeline ahead with “Good Factor” in 2018, invoking Eighties “quiet storm” R&B and Nineties neo-soul. Each albums reached the Billboard High 10, however they left the impression that Bridges was nonetheless doing style research, making an attempt on established kinds.
“Gold-Diggers Sound” — named after the Los Angeles studio the place the album was made — is extra confidently single-minded. All of its songs are midtempo or slower, typically verging on languid. Gently coiling, reverb-laden electric-guitar vamps, from Nate Mercereau, flip lots of the songs into meditations, and all the tracks, regardless of how a lot is occurring beneath the floor, defer to Bridges’s voice. Though the writing credit are filled with collaborations — together with pop music medical doctors like Dan Wilson and Justin Tranter — the songs current Bridges as a lonely determine in a desolate house, pleading and promising.
Bridges and his producers, Ricky Reed and Mercereau, have clearly heard the sluggish grooves of D’Angelo, Prince, R. Kelly, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. However there’s a distinct, melancholy facet to Bridges’s songs and his voice: much less assurance, extra ache.
He’s nonetheless a candy talker, providing his lovers not solely pleasure but additionally deeper empathy. In “Motorcycle,” over a calmly plinking, African-tinged groove, he insists, “Don’t imply no strain/I simply wanna make you’re feeling proper.” A guitar vamps serenely in “Particulars” as he worries a couple of companion discovering another person; he reminds her how carefully he’s paid consideration to “The way you look within the automobile once I’m driving a lil quick/The way you pause whenever you discuss whenever you’re making an attempt to not giggle.”
All through the album, Bridges dares to confess how needy he’s. “Why Don’t You Contact Me” has the sort of ticking, undulating backdrop that one other singer may use for an understated come-on. However Bridges’s music sees the eagerness ebbing out of his relationship, wonders what he may need performed unsuitable and finally ends up begging: “Woman, make me really feel wished/Don’t depart me out right here unfulfilled.” And Bridges ends the album not with romantic bliss, however with “Blue Mesas,” which confesses to a lingering despair that hasn’t been modified by success. It’s a up to date selection — unexpectedly in step with the brooding sing-rap of songwriters like Polo G and Rod Wave. For Bridges, soul’s historical past continues to be unfolding.