Bridges grins broadly and adds, "But I always carried my guitar."
It's not his first album. Both resurface on "Bridges," as do songwriters Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey and John Goodwin, Bridges' pal since fourth grade. "It seemed to be the season for this to happen," says Bridges, who won his first Oscar for "Crazy Heart," portraying Bad Blake, a washed-up country star.
"Crazy's" roots reach back to the 1980 Western "Heaven's Gate" and Kris Kristofferson, who introduced Bridges to Burnett. Their enduring bond proved pivotal to "Crazy Heart."
"I took a pass on 'Crazy Heart' because there was no music attached to it," Bridges says. Bridges considers the new album a solid success: He worked with ace players and won the approval of his three daughters and wife, Susan.
To those who might deem the album self-indulgent, Bridges says, "Everything is vanity, isn't it? Bridges is anything but. Blame "Sea Hunt," the TV hit starring his dad, Lloyd Bridges.
Any celebrity with a modicum of musical talent could easily make a record, hinging its success largely on his persona instead of actual musical ability. Like the music of Crazy Heart, much of the album is dominated by mid-to-low tempo country music, and it more or less extends Bridges’s excellent performance into a full-length album. This doesn’t sound like The Dude recorded a country album; it sounds like Jeff Bridges, the musician, made a country album, though often the voice of Crazy Heart‘s Bad Blake is still here as well.
The album basically picks up where Crazy Heart left off in terms of tone and tempo. The latter is one of the album’s best tracks. “The Weary Kind” showed Bridges’s skill with the introspective, but when the majority of the record is dominated by slow and often morose ballads, the album drags on, especially given that many of the album’s reflective pieces sound perhaps too close to the material from Crazy Heart. It’s a refreshing moment, one that showcases Bridges’s talent as a songwriter and deviates from the formula present on much of the album.
Bridges asks on “Falling Short”; “While I miss the mark / Do I hit the sky?” Admittedly, Bridges himself did note that some of the album’s music was written during his work on Crazy Heart. Still, given the music here that sounds removed from the film (such as “Tumbling Vine”), it seems that Bridges could have used more of the album to explore that material as opposed to riffing on the music of Crazy Heart. It’s paradoxical, in a way; while the album’s successes don’t hinge on Bridges’s actor persona, much of the album’s music is closely bound with one of his performances. The performance was a fine one, but Bridges’s music is good enough that his recording career need not be lived vicariously.
On that note, Bridges succeeds quite well. What he needs to do is clear: More Jeff Bridges, less Bad Blake.