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It seems as though there are plenty of people in the entertainment industry who aren’t just pleased with participating in their own respective medium. Musicians are a great example of this. From Eminem to Method Man, David Bowie and Frank Sinatra to Dean Martin, Justin Timberlake, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford, there are tons who have branched out into other areas. Obviously some succeeded in making the transition between music and film look easy while others haven't been so lucky. The same can be said for actors trying their hand at making music. Eddie Murphy’s horribly hilarious “Party All the Time” will go down in history as the best example of what Hollywood’s brightest can do when given a microphone, but other actors like Steven Seagul, Mr. T, William Shatner, Joe Pesci, and many others also prove that most thespians should stick with their craft.
But every once in a blue moon some actors will grace our ears with music that is not only worthwhile but actually pretty damn good. It makes you wonder why they didn’t start off as musicians. Actors like Jason Schwartzman, Jaime Fox, Jared Leto, Harold Lee, Steve Martin and Zooey Deschanel have all brought together their own unique talents to create some pretty passionate and superb tunes. Last week Jeff Bridges released his new album onto the world, adding him to the list of actors turned musicians. He's come out with one prior album, but it wasn't widely played. Everyone kind of assumed this new effort would be horrible, but those accusations may have been premature.
Bridges showed his talent as a guitarist and singer by performing all the numbers himself in the film Crazy Heart. The obvious next step was to test his talents and actually try making an album. With an endless budget and an even bigger ensemble of musicians to work with, what exactly did the Dude himself come up with? Was it as bad as people were thinking it was going to be? No, it was a pleasant surprise. Like his character from Crazy Heart, Bridges makes some bad moves throughout his self titled album Jeff Bridges, but he also creates something that is unique when it could have been horrible.
Like the Dude himself, a calm person who smokes pot all day, The Big Lebowski star’s character perturbed in this record full force. Not only is the album a “chill” take on the twangy country style, Bridges also creates a sound that hasn’t been heard since the days of Johnny Cash. In no way am I saying his music compares to the elegance and grace of Johnny’s lyricism, but the similar music stylings are a breath of fresh air amongst the many trite sounding country songs. Jeff Bridges takes his time to create a sound that feels special, but his lyrics don’t really match up to anything substantial.
The only song that really brings in the heavy blues guitar is “Slow Boat,” which is by far the best song on this album. It shows what the musician is truly capable of, which is also far more depressing than his lack of direction with the lyrics. Tunes like “Blue Car” and “Maybe I Missed the Point” are two songs that provide proof to the naysayers' claims. Nothing kills a record more than that bookend feeling where the most work was obviously put into the first and last tracks. Sadly, it seems as though Bridges has fallen ill to this deadly standard. Not all the tracks on Jeff Bridges are bad though, as the 4th track “Tumbling Vine” reminds me of an early Hank Williams tune and the closer “The Quest” is a song that really brings out the somber feeling of chillness that’s made the Dude… The Dude.
Jeff Bridges' eponymous album is a mixed effort that has plenty to please an audience but not enough to be something special. I'm not typically a fan of country music, but I was still pleasantly surprised by this LP. It isn’t a perfect record by any means, but it definitely brings back some great momentum that Johnny Cash made famous. Though he never quite reaches the level of intensity or emotion our favorite musician achieved. Maybe that’s what the Dude is all about though. Maybe Jeff Bridges was just trying to be an easy going and peaceful person by creating an equally mellow record, but adhering to a stoner’s ideology never makes for a good release. Mr. Spock learned that the hard way.
All in all, I wasn't completely disappointed by Jeff Bridges lackluster effort. The actor is absolutely among the ranks of actors who have made a noble attempt at transcending their position of simply being an actor. His musicianship might not be at full force on this record, but it's definitely a great step forward for things to come. I just hope he tries something different than Country music. I give Jeff Bridges self-titled album Jeff Bridges a 3 out of 5.
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