The evolution of Leon Bridges has been fascinating to behold.
The Fort Worth-based Grammy winner prefers to let his artistic actions speak louder than any words — his interviews, generally, are few and far between. In tracing his growth from the release of his major label debut, Coming Home, through his latest LP, it becomes apparent the 33-year-old singer-songwriter has a sharp sense of what works for him, and what doesn’t.
Bridges returns to North Texas for a hometown-adjacent gig Thursday at Irving’s the Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory — his biggest local headlining performance to date — as he continues touring behind his third studio album, 2021’s Gold-Diggers Sound.
While there are those who fell hard for his 1950s soul/R&B Home style who’ve bridled at his expansive, eclectic sonic journey in the years since, simply giving yourself over to Bridges, and trusting in his taste and abilities, can yield immense pleasures. What’s more, the beauty of Bridges’ career at this stage is that, given all he’s done to date, there’s still no sense of just where he might go next.
Here’s a look at five key tracks in Leon Bridges’ blossoming.
For my money, Bridges may never top this exquisite track, the closing tune from his 2015 major label debut. It’s a breathtakingly gorgeous showcase of his limber singing voice, but also fuses country, gospel, pop and soul in a way that marks him as a creative son of Fort Worth. Haunting, hopeful and hypnotic in near equal measure.
“Bad Bad News”
A crisp kiss-off wrapped in a jazzy backbeat, “Bad Bad News” was the lead single from 2018’s Good Thing, which quickly let listeners know the sonic stylings of Coming Home weren’t going to be repeated. The vivid, syncopated rhythms of the song also draw a direct line to Bridges’ deep, abiding love of dance (which gets a fine showcase in the video).
Much of Coming Home was decidedly chaste, as far as the feelings of love and lust went. “Beyond,” another single from Good Thing, found Bridges pushing the boundaries of his comfort with singing frankly, directly about matters of the heart. The disarmingly sweet line “I know Grandma would’ve loved her like she was her own” helps ground the sentiment for an artist unafraid to pay constant, adoring tribute to the women in his family (see: “Lisa Sawyer”).
Released in between his second and third studio albums, this 2020 collaboration with Houston’s Khruangbin underscored Bridges’ willingness to apply his talents to melodies and moods not necessarily of his own creation. His appetite for creative cross-pollination has yielded some genuine surprises, but this smart, subtle fusion of lightly funky country and soulful pop suggests the artistic horizon is effectively limitless for Bridges.
Listen to a few tracks from Coming Home and then dive into Gold-Diggers Sound, and the effect can induce whiplash. Bridges immersed himself in the up-late, anything goes lifestyle of the East Hollywood studio that gives his third LP its title — having cut his teeth dabbling in other genres and growing more confident as a writer and performer yielded some of the edgiest, most alluring tracks to date.
Leon Bridges performs Thursday at the Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory.
Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.