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Dude, Bridges plays it safe on country album

Published 10:50am Friday, August 19, 2011

The Dude has abided and released a likeable country album.

Jeff Bridges, the actor known for films like “The Big Lebowski,” “Crazy Heart” and “Tron,” turns in a pleasantly laid-back, though safe, performance on his new self-titled album.

Jeff Bridges isn’t the first film star to try his hand at a music career. In fact, a quick web search yields surprising results: Jeff Daniels, Jason Schwartzman, Bruce Willis, Robert Downey Jr., Steven Seagal and William Shatner. Failures are plentiful, but there’s many success stories as well.

Bridges, who released a little-known 2000 album, owes a lot to “Crazy Heart.” He won an Academy Award for his performance as a has-been country singer in the 2009 film.

In a recent interview, Bridges talked about jamming on a movie set before his “Crazy Heart” days with T-Bone Burnett, the producer partially credited with much of the film’s success. Burnett returns to produce the new album.

The album is at its best when it retains a jam quality, especially on tracks like “What A Little Bit of Love Can Do” and “Maybe I Missed the Point.”

The upbeat “What a Little Bit of Love Can Do” could easily be crooned by Bad Blake. But the bad boy persona is replaced by the affable nature Bridges often conveys onscreen.

Bridges referenced Bob Dylan as an influence, and the song-writer’s influence is detectable, especially when considering albums like “New Morning” and “Nashville Skyline.”

“Maybe I Missed the Point” is an easy, bluesy ballad that showcases Bridges’ voice and equally warm guitars.

Parts of the new album sound like unused songs from “Crazy Heart.” However, Bridges instills more of his personality on his album.

But his laid-back persona falls into a rut. The sound is safe and content, taking few risks and scoring few big payoffs.

Bridges’ may not have the range of more accomplished singers, but what polish his voice lacks he makes up for emotion.

The husky honesty of his voice helps convince you this album is more than a quick buck. And come on, how can you not trust The Dude?

Bridges is a likeable actor, and he has equally likeable moments on the album.

Other Listens: “New Morning” by Bob Dylan 1970

Bob Dylan’s country album from 1970 is often lost in the shuffle of the famed song-writer’s early classics and more recent comeback albums.

Fans too often forget he recorded a lot of memorable music in between.

The late 1960s and 1970s were known for Dylan’s turn at country. The album is perhaps most known for melo love songs “If Not For You” and “The Man In Me.”

After Dylan changed his voice to a country croon on “Nashville Skyline,” his return to his nasally voice instilled a little more rock ‘n’ roll on “New Morning.”

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