Review: Jeff Bridges – Jeff Bridges

I don’t know what it is out in Hollywood but at some point aging white actors decide they want to do a country album. Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon, Billy Bob Thorton, John Corbitt, even Steve Martin is getting into the act. The latest addition to that list is Jeff Bridges, a man who can sing, has put out at least one other album and won an academy award for his part as a fallen country star in the recent film Crazy Heart. I find Bridges a bit too cool and his integrity too sound to believe he did this to cash in. If anything his new self-titled album feels honest, as if Bridges really does enjoy singing and, unlike some of his counterparts, his voice fits the mold.

Jeff Bridges opens with “What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do”, a jangley country/rock tune that feels like an album opener. It’s the good time song, the rolling country roads and small town vibe that these kinds of country albums always start with. It seems that modern country loves to start out with a good time before hitting us with loneliness and sorrow.  Bridges takes that lesson a little too far this offering. The rest of the record is one variation or another of the slow, thoughtful, melancholy country ideal. I’m a big fan of those kinds of songs but if your record is filled with them, it had better be one incredible tune after another.

That’s not what happens here. Some of the songs are really good, while others are either okay or just plain boring. The second track, “Falling Short” brings all the joy of the opening song to a total halt. Using a bluesy-country feel, “Falling Short” is a perfect soundtrack to drinking alone and Bridges’ tired, raspy vocals do it justice. If placed in the middle of the record or towards the end, “Falling Short” would have been a great focal point; here it just saps the energy.  After that the Jeff Bridges album acts like a man who’s had too much. It staggers, stumbles, tries to find its voice and ultimately falls apart.

 Like all staggering drunks, Jeff Bridges does manage to stand up for a few seconds. “Tumbling Vine”, which musically is akin to Hank Williams JR’s “Ramblin Man”, is a standout track for me. It’s still slow but the hollow sound of the electric guitar gives it a creepy undertone, which works well. I also dug “Slow Boat”, another dry and spooky tune. “Blue Car” is probably the only out and out failure on Jeff Bridges; it just plods along like so much dead weight. Like I said, the songs on the record aren’t terrible, they just don’t work together. By the album’s finish you’ve forgotten what you heard and the energy is flat.

Surprisingly Bridges really shines on his own material. “Slow Boat “and “Tumbling Vine” were both written by Bridges, yet he let the rest of the album become re-worked attempts at other songs. Why didn’t he just do his own album? If he did want to do covers or non-original material, why not attempt a better-rounded scope to the music? The songs that aren’t Bridges’ ring hollow, they feel like Bridges is trying to be country. Modern country is mostly predicated on props and acting. People spend a lot of time putting forth this put together idea of what they “think” country is and America, being the sheep they are, eat it up. Bridges doesn’t feel that way to me, he feels like the genuine article that got caught up in some modern country trappings. It’s too bad because, from what I heard, an entire album of Jeff Bridges country originals might just kick a whole lot of ass.