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Album review: Jeff Bridges' 'Jeff Bridges'

August 15, 2011 |  5:49 pm

Album review: Jeff Bridges' 'Jeff Bridges'

All too often, a record from a famous actor can inspire cynicism in a music critic, a knee-jerk post-traumatic reaction from too many grisly attempts (anyone remember “Mr. T’s Commandments”?). Thankfully, the second album from noted thespian Jeff Bridges transcends expectations. Then again, if anyone would, it’s him: from playing a jazz pianist in 1989’s “The Fabulous Baker Boys” to his Academy Award-winning turn as a country singer in 2009’s “Crazy Heart,” Bridges has consistently portrayed musicians with wizened authenticity.

This effort appears to have evolved directly out of Bridges’ “Crazy Heart” triumph. For one, it’s produced by Grammy-bedecked studio guru T-Bone Burnett and features contributions from the likes of Greg Brown and Ryan Bingham, all of whom helped guide the “Crazy Heart” soundtrack, also produced by Burnett, toward credibility (and Oscar recognition). Unsurprisingly, Bridges proffers eccentric, rootsy Americana, from the Byrdsian guitar chime hot-wired with Buddy Holly melodies on “What a Little Bit of Love Can Do” through the pedal-steel driven, clip-clopping frontier ballad, “Everything but Love.” Most appealing are Bridges’ grizzled vocals: the sonic equivalent of gray whiskers, they evoke Nick Cave if he were, say, a baby-boomer Hollywood star baked by the Southern California sun (and other things), or Leonard Cohen if he was born a cowboy instead of a Canadian Buddhist folkie.

Bridges’ frayed charisma fits these songs perfectly. Nostalgic yet out of time, welcoming but secretly brooding, the combination creates an audio correlative to the beloved characters he’s played on-screen.

Jeff Bridges
‘Jeff Bridges’
(Blue Note)
Three stars (Out of four)

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—Matt Diehl

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