Leon Bridges – “River” (Singles Going Steady)

Leon Bridges resurrects the past in a language both refined and timeless.

Stephen Wyatt: The ghost of Otis Redding lurks in Leon Bridges’ “River” as the song opens, a haunting and visceral reflection on the pains of sin. Bridges laments, “Take me in your smooth waters / I go in / As a man with many cuts / As my sins flow down in the Jordan” as the chorus soars and the collection of voices echoing the ethos of negro spirituals. The song yields to Bridges’ voice and guitar, which exemplifies the power of stripped-down production and evades studio trickery. Heaven’s hymn spoken in a language often taken for granted by the throngs of contemporary R&B artists, Bridges resurrects the past in a language both refined and timeless. [10/10]

Steve Horowitz: The sound of rain as the cleaner of one’s soul makes sense in a song with a water theme. “River” offers hope in the spiritual sense. Taking things slow and quiet serves Bridges well. The video illustrates the personal journey, the sense of connection we have to others as a way of becoming closer to a supreme being. [8/10]

Jedd Beaudoin: One of my favorite artists of recent times. This is a guy who has great intonation, timbre, phrasing, the whole package. He’s the closest we’ll ever be to having Sam Cooke back. And the song is smoking. [9/10]

Dustin Ragucos: This is the kind of gospel that you’d steadily bob your head to while driving your car past precarious work. Each slow rhythmic move is a baby step toward understanding sin and finding the purpose in being submerged in waters, physical and mental. It might not brilliantly resonate tropes of a son coming back home, but damn, does it try its hardest to be passionate. [7/10]

Kevin Korber: Leon Bridges always struck me as a musician who was too retro for his own good, and “River” mostly doesn’t change my mind. However, no one can deny that he has pipes. His voice single-handedly elevates this song beyond a rote genre pastiche. It may be a familiar sound, but imagine a guy like Jeff Tweedy or someone else so retro-inclined doing “River”. You can’t. [7/10]

Chad Miller: A nice soulful song with light guitar and percussion accenting the vocals. Bridges is a talented vocalist, but his voice is sometimes distractingly rough, and the song loses momentum whenever a female singer enters. The lyrics might not do much for the nonreligious, but the idea of washing your sins down the Jordan is a pretty powerful image. [6/10]

SCORE: 7.83