Culture: SxSW Dreamin' + A Music Review of Leon Bridges' Fresh Take on the 1960s Rhythm & Blues

Album Artwork via Leon Bridges on Sound Cloud

Album Artwork via Leon Bridges on Sound Cloud

I’ll be honest. I should have started writing an hour ago. Instead, I’ve been pouring over the SxSW schedule and its playlists on Spotify. Austin, Texas has been at the very top of my United States travel list for a while now and I’m about ready to dust off my cowboy boots to see this place for myself.

A large part of why I’m dying to be at SxSW this year is for the killer music lineup, mostly for newcomer Leon Bridges.

From Fort Worth, Texas, Leon Bridges has a sound both all his own and one that’s borrowed from a time gone by. His new album is set to release this summer and it was recorded on 1960s vintage equipment with local Texan artists. The attention to detail in the phrasing, the authenticity, and the mood is perfection. I’m basing my 1960s rhythm & blues expertise off of my well-played Sam Cooke discography, but it seems as if the rest of the music world agrees. Hey, the man already made it to SxSW.

Last weekend I played Leon Bridges’ three singles... 

“Coming Home”

“Better Man”

”Lisa Sawyer”

...for the resident music experts in my life: my grandparents. They have a kickin’ vinyl collection that they started to pass down to me once I bought my first record player a few years ago. We’re talking original records of all different genres from Rumours by Fleetwood Mac to Ring of Fire by the one and only Johnny Cash. I loved growing up to their stories of the first time that they heard rock n’ roll on the radio and the time that they went to their first Beatles concerts.  

My grandma is always spot-on when it comes 1960s rhythm & blues. She’s got soul, as they say. “Coming Home” spurred a conversation about how she listened to music at that time: cruising in friends’ cars on a Friday night with everyone’s radios turned to the same station. She thought that Leon Bridges’ songs had that same tonal quality and background vocal arrangement as the artists of her generation. That’s the timelessness of Leon Bridges; he exists today with the same sort of fresh lyrical storytelling as he could have at the height of the 1960s rhythm & blues. And it’s exactly the kind of sound that you would want to hear echoing from car to car on a Friday night drive.

As it happens, not only is Leon Bridges at SxSW in Austin, but he’s also opening for Lord Huron on April 16th at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom in Portland. Tickets are still available (as of 3/15) online [here.