What A Little Bit Of Jeff Can Do
It's rather a lot in fact, and we know he can act - Crazy Heart was genuinely superb - and the Dude has one of the most distinguished movie careers out there. One of my favourites is his lesser known naively optimistic and then damaged - literally - persona in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.
In a series of interviews ahead of the release of Jeff Bridges, Bridges made it clear that he has always had a love of music, and his singing and playing in Crazy Heart merely brought this more to the public's attention rather than sparked a new musical interest, or worse, a cynical response to the soundtrack's success.
This album is not simply a Country album; indeed, it is much more. Yes, opener What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do is Country flavoured with pedal steel and tight, catchy harmonies, but there is also an outright pop element with its bouncy melody and rock'n'roll organ stabs. It's second track Falling Short that asserts the album's breadth with the soft dual vocals and echoing musical backdrop suggesting early 70s folkrock introspection and sincerity. Third Everything But Love is maybe the most Country with its central pedal steel.
Bridges' voice is distinctive because we know it so well, but it also has a gentle authority. I think the T-Bone Burnett production has been clever in pairing him so often with female harmony - not that this is necessary - but it just works. Fourth track Tumbling Vine returns to the folkrock vein with atmospheric fuzzed guitar riffs and resonating cymbals. Fifth Nothing Yet is wonderfully simple and puts Bridges' soft growl to the fore, though again tempered by the understated, almost hesitant female vocal accompaniment.
I'll refer to only one more of the ten tracks, and that's the cover of Greg Brown's Blue Car. This slow blues gets another simple, straight production, Bridges' vocal almost talking us through the tribulations of the troubled automobile - blues guitar and piano providing just enough umph to make us tap a foot.
Tapping a foot is about as roused as you'll get and if you are expecting more raucous instrumentation or even energy from Bridges' singing then I think you'll be disappointed. However, the easy-going but always heartfelt and distinctive Bridges' vocal [and tandem female voice] works perfectly for me. Just listen to eighth track Slow Boat [I know I lied about stopping at the sixth track....] and Jeff's vocal slow-walk, at its lowest register on the album, is hypnotic...because it's so clearly him! This is an unadorned honest album with relaxing late night listening written all over it.