There is absolutely no way for Jeff Bridges to escape his Jeff Bridges-ness. Even if his self-titled second record was a monolithic, dehumanizing drone-metal opus, the talking points would still start with the fact that The Dude is putting out another album. That’s just the way things are when you’ve had a career such as his, a second-wind music project earns a reaction of cloying enthusiasm, not stout expectation.
It’s not to say he isn’t benefiting from it, Bridges fame and unparalleled likability has escalated an entirely modest 40-minute country LP into something that’s earned a fair dosage of bare-faced anticipation. There’s been no morbid curiosity, no facepalming or WTF headlines – maybe it’s Crazy Heart but Jeff Bridges releasing country music makes a whole lot more sense than most other Hollywood crossovers. This ain’t Dogstar, in other words.
Jeff Bridges is all quiet and sepia-toned, dripping like molasses in dollops of hammy pedal steel, placid acoustic guitars, and Bridges’ cracked vocal chords. The songs come together as a collection of antiquated styles, mostly written by other people. The single “What A Little Bit of Love Can Do” has a honky-tonk rumble, “Everything But Love” is a heartsick, joined-in-duet crooner, and “Blue Car” revisits that regrettable time in pop history where a chart-bomb could be written solely about, yes, an automobile (“It’s a good ol’ car, but the clutch is a little loose” – actual line, no lie.) The two tracks Mr. Bridges contributes are the pensive “Falling Short” and the doomy, almost Nick Cave-ian “Tumbling Vine,” they aren’t highlights but they certainly showcase a stronger knack for songwriting than you might initially assume.
Does any of this transcend the novelty of where this album is coming from? Not at all. The music takes a distant second-place to the image of a grizzled Jeff Bridges sitting in a studio amongst bewildered musicians. Not that it’s unsuccessful or unworthy, just wholly unnecessary, the sort of thing that only works if you let Bridges’ warm soul brush up against yours. Sure the record barely registers but it’s far from self-sabotage, and rather charming if you give it enough of a ledge. Like I said, it ain’t Dogstar.
But man, wouldn’t have Dogstar been awesome if Keanu Reeves AND Jeff Bridges were in it?