Every month I try to squeeze in at least one Austin artist. However, I heard a song a few weeks back on an Austin radio show called “Lone Star State of Mind.” My friend John Laird on KGSR hosts the show. As the show’s title suggests, he exclusively plays Texas music, mostly indie-type stuff that you probably won’t hear on those bigger stations.
On this fateful night, he played “River” by Leon Bridges, who is an up and coming artist from Ft. Worth. Come to find out, Austin Jenkins, the guitarist from well-loved Austin band White Denim, struck up a conversation with Bridges about clothing. Then a little while later, Jenkins caught a show, fell in love with Bridges’ sound, and the rest is history, y’all!
Well, actually, the rest is that Leon Bridges released his first album, “Coming Home,” with Columbia Records last month.
As a proud Austinite and natural-born Texan, it delights me to no end hearing stories about Texas musicians helping other Texas musicians achieve success.
All Texas pride aside, Bridges writes gorgeous music. What struck me about “River” is that if I’m hearing things correctly, he only plays two chords throughout the entire track. Its power stems from its simplicity. It never sounds thin or repetitive. It carries a weight and depth that builds then retreats, and then slowly builds back up again. Every twist, every bend has a purpose. It reveals an unexpected gurgle that carries us ever forward.
People have noted how spot on he is in creating a ’60s soul and R&B vibe, both in his sound and in his appearance, and I must say that I agree. Even hearing this song on “Lone Star State of Mind,” knowing that this had to be a current artist, I Googled him to learn more. He couldn’t possibly be a modern musician, could he? Well, he is. And there is something altogether unique about his presence and his sound.
My favorite part of “River” is when we get to the bridge. The acoustic guitar cuts out and a woman’s voice comes in. “I wanna know, wanna know, wanna know.” A long silence follows. Then a man’s voice joins hers. “I wanna go, wanna go, wanna go.” Their voices are so pure, so clear. If I close my eyes, it sounds like they are singing in the room next to me. In the silences between their words, I hear a slight fuzziness, a hint of buzzy white noise. I sink into it and let it carry me to the end of the song.
If this song by Leon Bridges soothes your soul, you might want to give “Coming Home” and “Lisa Sawyer” a go.
PS: “Lone Star State of Mind” airs every Sunday from 10 p.m. to midnight. You can stream it here, or tune in to 93.3 FM if you’re in the Austin area. I bet you’ll discover some great stuff. I know I do every week!