Album Review: Jeff Bridges — Jeff Bridges

Sam Gazdziak | August 17th, 2011

jeffbridgesJeff Bridges may have won an Oscar and considerable acclaim for playing a down-and-out songwriter in Crazy Heart, but his interest in music goes well beyond the movies. He released an R&B-tinged album, Be Here Soon, in 2000, but that is a far cry from his new one. Jeff Bridges draws more from the folksy, Americana vibe of Crazy Heart, but it manages to avoid sounding like the further adventures of Bad Blake.

There’s plenty of talent surrounding Bridges on his major-label debut. The album was produced by T-Bone Burnett, and he provides his customary, slightly ethereal sound to the proceedings. Songwriters on the album include Gary Nicholson, Greg Brown, John Goodwin and the late Stephen Bruton. Sam Phillips and Rosanne Cash add background vocals.

With such a bevy of talented contributors, the real question mark is Bridges’ voice. He made some solid contributions to the Crazy Heart soundtrack, but the question was whether his rather limited voice could stand up for an entire album. The good news is that most of the songs fit Bridges very well. In particular, “Maybe I Missed the Point” and “Everything but Love” (both written by Goodwin) both have an easy-going, philosophical vibe that is perfectly suited to him.

Not every song is a good match for Bridges, as the slower-tempo songs like “Slow Boat” leave him essentially growling out the lyrics. Bridges wrote several songs himself, and while “Tumbling Vine” and “Falling Short” are nicely sung and arranged, they tend to be a little too dense and esoteric. He does better as an interpreter of songs from the likes of Bruton and Goodwin. Give Bridges a mid-tempo song like Bruton and Nicholson’s “What a Little Bit of Love Can Do” or Goodwin’s rambling “The Quest,” and he kills it. There are enough of those moments throughout the album that it ceases to be a vanity project from a Hollywood star and leaves one hoping for a follow-up.

If Bridges had to parlay one of his movie roles into a side gig in the real world, it’s a good thing he chose Bad Blake over, say, Obadiah Stane from Iron Man. There are enough evil geniuses in the world as it is, but more good music is always welcome.

3.5 Stars

  1. Leeann Ward
    August 17, 2011 at 9:03 am

    I enjoy this album quite a bit, but your points are well taken. My only real complaint, however, is that the album doesn’t have much tempo other than slow.

  2. Occasional Hope
    August 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I think it’s interesting that one of the tracks is entitled ‘Slow Boat’, and has a co-writing credit for Thomas Cobb, the writer of the original novel on which Crazy Heart was based. In the book, ‘Slow Boat’ was Bad Blake’s big hit single. Was this song originally written for the film>

    • Juli Thanki
      August 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      Yep. I asked him about that when I interviewed him for M Music Magazine). He said he and T-Bone were trying to figure out songs for the film by reading the book and came across that title; then the lyrics were written in about 20 minutes.

  3. Occasional Hope
    August 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Thanks for clarifying, Juli. So they just credited Cobb because the inspiration and title came from the book?

    • Juli Thanki
      August 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      That’s the way I understood it, O.H.

  4. Leeann Ward
    August 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Juli, Did I miss that Bridges interview somewhere or has it not been printed yet?

    • Juli Thanki
      August 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm

      I don’t think it’s printed yet, Leeann.

  5. Rick
    August 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Kudos to Jeff for creating something you say reaches beyond a vanity project as they usually are. Its going to have to go a long ways to compete with William Shatner’s “The Transformed Man” though as the pinnacle of such ventures! (lol)

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