Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, The Temptations... names that were definitely referenced in your childhood, if you're a college student like me. Their music featured grooving instrumental backgrounds, gorgeous soulful voices singing in flawless harmony and cool dynamic rhythms. It gave their music a certain wow-factor. Well - these musicians were the architects of the genre of Soul. Now, Leon Bridges, a texas–based 26–year old musical songbird, is bringing the genre back with style.
When you visit Leon Bridge's website, the first words of his mini blurb describes as having "completely immersed himself in soul." This couldn't be more accurate. As you listen to Bridges, you are transported back to soul's heyday in the 50s. The music created by this memphis–based musician takes us back on a journey to that generation, but brings us there on a different route.
Bridges' music features all the elements that give soul its unique character: a funky horn section, cool vocal parts in the background and jazz–y syncopated percussion. But, the standout of his music? His voice. We can't give enough praise to this musician's original sound. His voice is polished and exact, yet fluid and smooth. Bridges brings excitement to his vocal parts, hitting difficult vocal runs and adding in occasional stylistic growls to his voice. He even goes as far to add an effect in production that makes his voice sound as if it comes straight from a record player. In addition to his own voice, Bridges takes influence from soul and includes background vocal parts to supplement his own. Sometimes it comes in the form of a girl singing a quick "bop bop" like in his song "Lisa Sawyer", or sometimes a sultry intro "hoo" like in "Coming Home".
Bridges takes a lot of his influence from soul, yet, there's something different about his songs, an x–factor. There's a new–age feeling to his music. Perhaps its the fancy production technology, but the songs feel like they belong in our generation. It's more of a tribute to the genre of soul, rather than a renewal.
Music has recently taken a liking to these kinds of artists, bringing back "older" music genres and making them their own. Take folk music. It had its heyday in the 60s, quickly disappearing from the popular charts after Peter Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan. Now, its quickly making its comeback with bands like Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers. Good music trends, like fashion, come and go in cycles.
Take a listen to our favorites, “River” and "Better Man". The first is one of Bridges slower, completely stripped songs. It features an acoustic guitar with striking vocals in strong harmony. It's a religious song, giving you the emotion to match the music. Better man is more up tempo, really showing off Bridge's voice. It got us through the spring snow this weekend, so it should get you through essentially anything else. So that's Leon for you, take a listen.