My friends, do you believe in miracles? Leon Bridges is the expeditor of your dreams. By embracing the stripped down, low-fi simplicity and genius of early Motown, what we have in his debut album is a 26-year-old Texan with more soul than every last fibre of every being you ever met in your life combined.
Coming Home is a gift from above. It’s everything you wish all the alt-tuned, highly synthesised pop churn outs would embrace. Around the time of Michael Jackson’s staggeringly over-produced, yet vehemently insubstantial final studio album Invincible, I pondered over and over again what it would be like, how seriously good it would be, if Michael just got back to his roots. Hired himself a small rhythm section; just a drummer, a lead and rhythm guitarist, a keyboardist, maybe a small horn section, and cut an old fashioned R&B album. What would the world be like now had instead of going insane, the King of Pop had instead just gotten himself creative, and churned out what may very well have been on par with What’s Goin’ On? Can we dream?
This is that album.
By simply embracing the soul-gospel inspirations of the likes of Sam Cooke and just flat-out running with it, Leon Bridges has created in Coming Home what is more of a hallowed tribute than it is merely pastiche; on par and of equal merit in all stakes to the marvellous Sharon Jones and the DAP Kings in terms of artists taking their inspiration and cues from a mode of music long since relegated to the annals of ‘retro’ and simply embraced it afresh.
The title track immediately evokes Percy Sledge or Otis Redding; you think you’re in the middle of a young and hungry Berry Gordy session in the early 60s. Authentic just don’t cover it. ‘Better Man’ has echoes of Smokey Robinson’s ‘I Second That Emotion’. It’s imbued with a simple structure, a do-wop backing vocal and the whole thing is all over inside of a couple of minutes. It’s a glorious thing, and simplicity in itself. ‘Brown Skin Girl’ snakes around your head with its Marvin Gaye-Sam Cooke lyrical purr and saxophone lilts. ‘Smooth Sailin’’ suggests a perfect accompaniment to the opening of a swingin’ 60s detective show. ‘Twistin’ & Groovin’ has all the hallmarks of a Sam Cooke tune, just with deeper low-end sounds and audio production, and at a smidge over four minutes, is the 10-track record’s longest cut. Album closer, ‘River’ is a slow burn, heartfelt and ethereal; deeply rooted in gospel faith. It’s a humdinger with which to close off an album like this.
If ever there was a single album that you could put on, inhale and then realise that everything’s really going to be OK, it’s this. Embrace it as you would the antidote for whatever malady ails you. Glorious.