I actually wound up writing quite a bit about Leon Bridges, stuff that was far more abstract, before distilling it to the simple entry before. Conversely, Low Cut Connie also copy their sound, but they remembered something: hooks.
LEON BRIDGES – Coming Home (Columbia): It’s funny Bridges should save his best song, “River,” for last: it’s the one song where his voice guides the music—mere acoustic guitar strums and a tambourine—rather than having the music—a nostalgiafest of 60s Sam Cooke/Motown-sound soul, complete with purposefully poor recording quality—dictate how he delivers his sweet, sweet vocals. So he winds up with semi-interesting songs that largely trample his vocals because of how out-of-time the music is, which was, in all fairness, his original intent. The record is obsessed with replicating the sounds of an era gone by, one Bridges didn’t experience, though his high-waisted pants and cardigan—not to mention an album cover reminiscent of those times—could fool you if you weren’t careful. And even though Bridges is meticulous about getting every detail exact—blurts of muffled horns, hollow snares, vernacular like pretty brown-skinned girls in polka-dot dresses—he forgets that it’s important to write songs memorable for the melody or hook, not only the era it evokes. Were this released alongside the likes of Sam Cooke, we know who would be remembered. Is there a career in churning out completely innocuous and inoffensive renditions of songs that could have been? Maybe. But it’d be a waste if Bridges let his music be anything but a vessel for his voice, rather than using his voice as a platform to support his music. B PLUS (**)
LOW CUT CONNIE – Hi Honey (Ardent Music): Accuse Adam Weiner and Dan Finnemore of being just another roots rock revivalist front all you like, but keep in mind that Otis Redding or Jerry Lee Lewis never discussed crossdressing the way this NJ duo do: A Tina Turner enthusiast laments his beard-and-heels combo is “kinda weird.” The “Little Queen of New Orleans” tries to emulate the perverse allure of a sweet sixteener. And while not right in line with those examples, Danny of “Danny’s Outta Money” has to consider whoring himself out to male and female clients in order to pay off a 5k drug debt before his knees get popped. Even when their words and yarns featuring peculiar characters aren’t as compelling, they use gospel backup singers to great effect (“Shake It Little Tina,” “Both My Knees”), kick out shifting, southern guitar licks (“Danny’s Outta Money”), and engage in a blue collar romance they considering throwing on the fire (“Me N Annie”). You can name drop influences all you like—Redding and Lewis and the Temptations—yet nothing sounds co-opted. Rather, they’ve taken a southern sound and occasionally flip its relative conservatism on its head. A MINUS