Release Date: Aug 16, 2011
Record label: Blue Note
Genre(s): Country, Americana, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Country-Folk
Jeff Bridges isn't only a singer onscreen; see his 2000 indie LP, Be Here Soon, featuring "Movin'," a charming (if awkward) reggae jam, and his soulful honky-tonk contributions to the Crazy Heart soundtrack. Sure, this album gains depth from his film history - these laid-back country-rock songs suggest a cleaned-up Bad Blake, or a Dude with ambitions beyond the bowling lanes. But with T Bone Burnett's production and vocal assists from Rosanne Cash and Sam Phillips, Bridges' leathery voice makes this music sound lived-in.
Yes, that Jeff Bridges. The star of The Big Lebowski, Tron and the first King Kong remake has decided to return to the singer-songwriter roots he abandoned before starting acting. Anyone who caught him in Crazy Heart might think this is personality fusion in action, with Bridges the actor swapping seats with Bad Blake the grizzled bar crooner. To a certain extent that’s true: the ten shuffling country tracks assembled here come heavily soaked in nostalgia, Bridges’ voice so leathery you could make shoes out of it.
Crazy Heart reminded us that the Oscar-winning actor could sing, so the surprise here isn’t Bridges’ worn-denim vocals, which producer T Bone Burnett surrounds with his trademark chamber-country atmospherics. Rather, it’s Bridges’ songwriting on appealingly idiosyncratic cuts like the philosophical ”Tumbling Vine” and ”Falling Short,” on which he wonders if God put him here to ”bushwhack a path.” Spoken like the Dude himself. B+ Download These:Tender What a Little Bit of Love Can DoTear-in-your-beer ballad Everything but Love .
Jeff Bridges won an Oscar for his portrayal of country singer Otis "Bad" Blake in 2009's Crazy Heart, so it's safe to assume that his new full-length album isn't just another celebrity vanity project. Rather, it's a natural extension of his world-weary performance in the film and on its soundtrack. Bridges has an expressive voice, a fried drawl that works well with the genre, but lacks range.
Any celebrity with a modicum of musical talent could easily make a record, hinging its success largely on his persona instead of actual musical ability. The hardcore fans of such a celebrity, for the most part, would likely buy the album regardless of their knowledge of his musical talent. Given that many modern actors have many talents (one notable example being James Franco, who, while maintaining an acting career, recently released a collection of short fiction while working toward his doctorate in English), it’s not surprising to see them branch out into the musical arts.
Jeff Bridges’s self-titled album of rootsy, workmanlike country songs is a testament to the actor-turned-singer’s talents in precisely the same way that Crazy Heart was: His performances elevate the project above its reliance on too-familiar genre conventions and predictable narratives and structures. Despite a couple of subtle nods to Crazy Heart‘s source novel, this isn’t an in-character turn as Bad Blake, and Bridges’s personal, heartfelt deliveries of the songs here are what make the album worthwhile. Collaborating with longtime friend T-Bone Burnett, Bridges immediately settles into a rough-hewn brand of country-rock on his major-label debut.
There is absolutely no way for Jeff Bridges to escape his Jeff Bridges-ness. Even if his self-titled second record was a monolithic, dehumanizing drone-metal opus, the talking points would still start with the fact that The Dude is putting out another album. That’s just the way things are when you’ve had a career such as his, a second-wind music project earns a reaction of cloying enthusiasm, not stout expectation.
Part of the reason Jeff Bridges was so convincing in his Oscar-winning role as Bad Blake in 2009’s Crazy Heart is that he’s so comfortable in his own skin he lends a casual authority to whatever he does. He stood behind the microphone as if he belonged, a stance no doubt derived from his own musical background: about a decade earlier he released his own album, the thoroughly likeable Be Here Soon, a record that lightly traded on his hippie Lebowski persona. His music bona fides came in handy for Crazy Heart, and that film in turn set the stage for Bridges’ second album, an eponymous 2011 set produced by T-Bone Burnett, the producer and music supervisor for Crazy Heart.
JEFF BRIDGES (Blue Note) Who should be excited for the self-titled country album by Jeff Bridges? Let’s see: cult worshippers of “The Big Lebowski” and his indelible lead character, otherwise known as the Dude. Anyone who ever idly imagined a future for Duane, the rangy Texas high school quarterback Mr. Bridges played 40 years ago in “The Last Picture Show.” And what about those moved by his Academy Award-winning portrayal of Bad Blake, the downward-spiraling country veteran in “Crazy Heart”? Sure, them too.
The washed out photos of The Wandas on the cover of their debut, dressed as they might have been in the ’60s and ’70s, perfectly reflects the band’s retro but not necessarily dated approach. The Boston based quartet’s dreamy pop-rock locks in on a mid-tempo groove and the organic sound captures the effortless strummy melodies and vocal harmonies that recall the days before slick production and too many overdubs robbed music of its magic. Jeff BridgesJeff Bridges(Blue Note)Rating: The dude abides some sleepy, rootsy production by T-Bone Burnett to capitalize on his star turn as country washout Bad Blake in Crazy Heart.