Coming Home (Columbia)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., July 10, 2015
Live, Leon Bridges' voice hasn't broken. Ft. Worth's 25-year-old soul sensation registers m-a-n, of course, recalling no less than Sam Cooke in high-waisted pants and croon, but the cracks and pops in his otherwise porcelain delivery befit a late-Fifties 78 rather than the digital tabula rasa of the 21st century. On disc, major label bow and overall ground-zero debut Coming Home, that peach fuzz around the edges retros back to the future faster than a DeLorean time machine. Leon Bridges' initial online demos promised a second coming of gospel's satin robes donning the secular wool of Nat King Cole and his musical progeny – Cooke, Ray Charles, Texas' Charles Brown – and Coming Home fills both the house of God donation basket and speakeasy tip bucket. Simplicity can be deceptive – 10 songs over 35 minutes at first feeling slight – yet not a sax bleed, organ snap, or female choral echo combs out as less than true-blue. Replay it until the vinyl scratches for real. The title cut, opener and Bridges' earliest hallmark, sets a late-night tableau of fireplace romance, White Denim's rhythm tandem Josh Block (drums) and Austin Jenkins (guitar) laying down a glowing four-track groove over which Andrew Skates' keyboards inch the thermostat to moist. Jeff Dazey's saxophone coif gives "Brown Skin Girl" a New Orleans/Allen Toussaint Sixties chic, and nudges "Lisa Sawyer" into babymaking doo-wop territory. Upbeaters "Smooth Sailin'" and "Flowers" keep the candles from blowing out, but closer "River" ebbs a gentle tribute to Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" that manages to walk a few feet on the water. Baptism by Leon Bridges.