Khruangbin & Leon Bridges, “Texas Sun” EP

Khruangbin & Leon Bridges
Texas Sun EP
DEAD OCEANS/COLUMBIA/NIGHT TIME STORIES
7/10

Raw, silken R&B vocalist Leon Bridges and the twisty, turny, psychedelic rock-funk instrumentalists of Khruangbin toured as one package last year, a show of unity between Texan soul makers.

Fort Worth’s Bridges has always been a little bit buttoned up—a modern day Sam Cooke if ever there was—even though, by the end of his 2018 sophomore effort, Good Thing, Bridges loosened up for a jazz-disco-jam vocal workout. Speaking of jam, Houston’s Khruangbin is a psilocybin power trio, what the Grateful Dead would have sounded like if they boiled down their essentials to a Beck, Bogert & Appice–esque roar.

Khruangbin—guitarist Mark Speer, bassist Laura Lee, drummer Donald Johnson—create a hypnotic sonic (water) bed for a vocalist to loll and spin upon; a neat trick, as it’s something the flowery threesome have never attempted before. That the singer is Bridges gives the band a much needed blunt punctuation on the chugging, blissful title track, and the vocalist some genuine cajones and rough swagger on the elastic “Conversion.”

While the sloe gin–swigging, sauntering ballad “Midnight” sounds the most like your usual Bridges ranch stash—some late ’60s rhythmic and melodic touches here, some noir soul between the sheets, some lyrics about driving while holding his sweetheart there—“C-Side,” the best song on the too-short EP, comes across like vintage Khruangbin: all swirly and exotic with malleted grooves, off-pulse cowbell, and a funky, funhouse atmosphere that’s the sonic equivalent of Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai.

Here’s to a further expansion of this pairing’s brand of Texas tea.

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