Gold-Diggers Sound, much like the voice of its creator, Todd “Leon” Bridges, is easy to get lost inside of. Bridges, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, has made a career out of sounding just about as velvety smooth as it’s possible to sound, and most recently attached his heavenly vocals to a collaborative EP with Texan psychedelic trio Khruangbin, and to “Inside Friend” – a non-album single with John Mayer (who just released a superb new record.)
Though he was only born in 1989, Bridges had pretty much perfected a '60s R&B sound all of his own by the time he dropped Coming Home in 2015. That album – his first – was full of highlights and retro-flavoured gems (“Twistin’ & Groovin’”, “Brown Skin Girl”, “Better Man”…), and his second, 2017’s Good Thing, showcased an even more refined and expansive palette. “Bad Bad News”, “Beyond” and “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)” were the key signifiers that a change was afoot. Bridges’ songwriting, in collaboration with a team of sympathetic ears, many of whom return for Gold-Diggers Sound.
Right from the first track, the Robert Glasper-featuring “Born Again”, it’s clear that it’s on. It’s really on, and the highlights don’t really end from there on out: “Motorbike” is a key track in Bridges’ catalogue, and was an instant fan favourite as soon as it dropped. “Steam”, “Why Don’t You Touch Me” and “Magnolias” all form a mid-album trilogy as good as any set of tunes Bridges has ever released. Closer “Blue Mesas” and “Sho Nuff” also qualify as career-best tunes – in fact there’s not much here that doesn’t showcase the quantum leaps Bridges and his crew have made in the songwriting department.
The key tune, if you had to pin the whole album on one track, would be “Sweeter”, a heartfelt but terrifying tribute to George Floyd, who was murdered in May of last year by a serving police officer. “Sweeter” is Bridges’ attempt to make some semblance of sense out of the whole ordeal, repeatedly and emphatically “hoping for a life more sweeter”, despite living a life that seems to be a “story repeating”. It’s powerful stuff.
Not only is Gold-Diggers Sound the most cohesive release Bridges has put out to date, it’s also the most distinctive. This sounds like the album he’s been trying to make his entire career, while also managing to pay homage and give credit to the stylistic forebears that trod the path before him. This is soul music, in the literal and figurative sense. Try it, it’s good for you.