September 12, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
Film stars making music is nothing new. The quality obviously has varied through out the years from the terrible with the likes of Russell Crowe and Bruce Willis, to the decent with the likes of Hugh Laurie’s blues album (which hasn’t budged from the top 40 since it was released) and Steve Martin (he’s been a professional banjo player for years).
Jeff ‘The Dude’ Bridges is no stranger to making music. He was a budding musician before he became and actor and released a solo album, ‘Be Here Soon’ in 2000 and showed his skills with performances in Crazy Heart. This self titled album is his major label debut and with his star riding pretty high at the moment will probably get the most attention of all his music so far.
What Bridges gives us is ten tracks of country and blue grass numbers, a mix of his own songs (albeit only three), some written for this album, some left over from ‘Crazy Heart’ and some older than me, but they all fit together nicely. The similarities to Crazy Heart are there, and in style it’s not a million miles away from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ ‘Rising Sands ‘
Opening with the upbeat ‘What A Little Bit of Love Can Do’ featuring Rosanne Cash, things get off to a good start, but it’s the most jovial track by far, the rest of the album is slower, more relaxed numbers.
Jeff has a low and gravelly quality to his voice, but doesn’t have immense talent. But he gives a measured performance that plays to his strengths, playing up the moody, almost melancholic nature of most of the songs. Bridges is widely known as ‘The dude’ and it comes out in the music, this is ole time country to relax to with a white russian outside on your porch.
Producer T-Bone Burnett (who produced the Crazy Heart Soundtrack) does a good job, finding a quality set of musicians to back Bridges up and together they all sound great, giving the songs their own identity so while there’s no classics, there’s little in the way of rubbish.
At forty minutes the music doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, and the songs with lyrics of love, loneliness, sorrow and hope demand a couple more listens, even if it won’t be on repeat for the rest of the month. ‘Tumbling Vine’ and closer ‘The Quest’ are the highlights, with ‘Maybe I Missed The Point’ deserving a mention.
Ignoring the film star in the line up (including all references to the Big Lebowski) and taking the music at face value you’re left with a decent album. It’s enjoyable, chilled and although it’s not reinventing the wheel it was never likely to, country and bluegrass have been set in their ways for a long time.
It probably wont be the best country album out this year (Bob Dylan and friend’s reworking of the lost Hank Williams album should get that by default if it’s out in time). Just an above average country album that still blows Bruce Willis’ attempt at swapping big screen for the mic out of the water.