Album of the Week: Leon Bridges – Gold-Diggers Sound (2021 LP)

Leon Bridges

A musical chameleon of sorts, Leon Bridges is back in 2021 with a new sound that still fully embraces the genuine strength of his vocal, while also leaning into his gradual progression into RnB. Here on Gold-Diggers Sound, Bridges has well and truly done away with the 1960’s soul sound he first burst out with on 2015’s Coming Home, while still allowing for elements of 2018’s Good Thing to seep through. At 10 tracks in length (plus a short instrumental), the Texas artist has managed to piece together a wealth of tracks that show little resemblance of who the artist once was, while mostly telegraphing where he is likely headed over coming years and releases.

The biggest takeaway from Gold-Diggers Sound is the uniformity of the sound and clarity in the message Bridges is trying to create on the album. While trying to not have a pigeonholed sound,  his second album Good Thing was caught between the sound Bridges had become known for and the sound he wanted to achieve.

Here on Gold-Diggers Sound, Bridges’ final form has been achieved. All swing and soul has been removed and replaced with a delicate, slinky and smooth RnB groove.

An honest and insightful look into what not only makes Bridges tick, but also what makes him whole, Gold-Diggers Sound lays open a view into an artist who at times has struggled with the stardom he’s achieved over the past six years. Album-opener “Born Again” opens with one minute of vocals from Bridges backed by woozy keys, before the added instrumentation of drums and a mixture of brass and woodwind take the song down another path and completely opens it up.

The sex-driven “Motorbike” is a real highlight, as you’re reminded once more of the absolute strength and quality in Bridges’ voice. As controlled as it is forceful, the delicate guitar picks from the bridge onwards is the key to making “Motorbike” work. Followed up by the unassuming groover “Steam”, this will definitely be a live favourite, with the breadth of the song likely to transfer incredibly well to venues. The addition of sleek backing vocals is the bow on top of the “Steam” present.

In between albums two and three, Bridges has collaborated with the funk and dub act Khruangbin; a musical relationship that has without doubt inspired and informed the musical stylings on Gold-Diggers Sound. Tracks like “Why Don’t You Touch Me”, “Details” and “Sho Nuff” lean right into the collective stylings of Khruangbin while also embracing the new sounds Bridges has incorporated into his new sound. They’re all smooth and sultry and laced with the genuine steeze you’ve come to expect from the lords of RnB.

If there is one negative to Gold-Diggers Sound there is at times an indecipherable ability to differentiate between songs. While none of them are inherently poor songs, the album does lack musical variety across its run, which after a while means some of the tracks do end up sounding the same. This aside, Gold-Diggers Sound does reach another blissful height with the longest of tracks in the form of “Don’t Worry ft. Ink”. If you’re going to listen to one song on the album please let it be “Don’t Worry”. Unbelievably well layered, it encapsulates everything great about the album, while not overplaying its elements whatsoever.

The overwhelming sentiment of Gold-Diggers Sound is that it is a leap forward for Leon Bridges. Gone are the days of being an artist throwing back to 60+ years ago. Bridges is now becoming more comfortable in what he wants to be as an artist and person, and Gold-Diggers Sound goes some way into achieving this.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Gold-Diggers Sound is out Friday 23 July. You can pre-order it HERE.  You can give Leon Bridges a follow on Facebook, Instagram and his Website

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