Style: Grizzled country-folk; compare to Johnny Cash, Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark
Top tracks: "What a Little Bit of Love Can Do," "Nothing Yet," "The Quest"
When a successful actor takes a musical turn, the results can be disastrous. William Shatner and Scarlett Johansson, anyone? So Jeff Bridges has made an album, but it's far from the vanity project one might imagine. He's surrounded by top-notch talent—producer T Bone Burnett, the Joe Henry house band, and Sam Phillips and Roseanne Cash on backing vocals—and the sonic pieces sound great. Less predictably, so does Bridges. That's no surprise to those who saw him in Crazy Heart. Bridges can do the grizzled, worldly-wizened troubadour about as well as anyone, often approaching hallowed Johnny Cash territory. What is more surprising is how well he does buoyant, swaggering country rock. Opener "What a Little Bit of Love Can Do" sounds like a bona fide hit, its jangly Buddy Holly riff scuffed up by Bridges' raspy vocals. And on the late Stephen Bruton's "Nothing Yet" he pulls off a harrowing tour-de-force, a deeply rueful look back over a conflicted life that barely rises above a whisper. It's a marvelous lesson in restraint, the verses made all the more powerful because you have to strain to hear them; it sounds like a deathbed confession. Spiritual content is vague at best, but Bridges adds a soulful, idiosyncratic stamp to these thoughtful songs, and acquits himself surprisingly well.1
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