[Blogger’s note: This is an occasional series of offhand, highly suspect reviews of current albums. I reserve the right to change my mind. In fact, count on that happening in 3, 2, 1…]
Good Thing – Leon Bridges (Columbia, 10 tracks)
I loved the first album by this Texas-born soul revivalist. 2015’s Coming Home was one of the most confident debuts I’d heard in many a moon and it landed at number six on my influential* 10-best list for that year. Harkening back to ‘60s soul pioneers Lee Dorsey and Sam Cooke, the record hummed with vitality. For his sophomore outing, Bridges has broadened his sound to include ‘70s-era slow jams and even a bit of ‘90s new jack swing. The lead-off track “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” sounds like a classic Stylistics ballad and “Shy” recalls ‘90s R&B bad boys Jodeci at their let’s-go-to-bed sultriest. Bridges is credible as a Casanova; his honeyed voice effortlessly soars to falsetto heights and plunges to pillow-talk lows. But overall, the energy level here is waaaaay down. Part of the problem is the production, which layers on the reverb and the synthetic percussion and echo-y handclaps, diluting Bridges’ vocal delivery. There are enough memorable tracks, such as the jazzy-cool “Bad Bad News,” that Good Thing narrowly escapes the curse of the sophomore slump. But the exuberance of that thrilling debut is sorely missed.
*Not at all influential.