I spoke with Jeff Bridges earlier this week. Yup, that Jeff Bridges. When he picked up the phone, he said, “Heyyy, Johhhhn. Hey, man. How’re you doin’?” in that distinctive, slacker/stoner Lebowski-ese that made me want to slip on a bathrobe and mix up a pitcher of White Russians. The Dude was in New York for a Big Lebowski cast reunion—celebrating the film’s release on Blu-Ray—but he wanted to talk music. Bridges recorded a CD for Blue Note, and he’s proud of it.
T-Bone Burnett, the music supervisor on Lebowski, produced Jeff Bridges, which includes a few songs written by Bridges and tunes by his old friends, Stephen Bruton and John Goodwin, who wrote most of the material for Crazy Heart. The band includes a handful of Burnett cronies, including guitarist Marc Ribot, drummer Jay Bellerose, and singers Roseanne Cash, Sam Phillips, and Ryan Bingham. “Me and Bone go back a long way,” said Bridges. “Kris Kristofferson introduced us when we were making Heaven’s Gate (1980), and we’d just sit around and play music whenever we could. We’ve been friends ever since.”
Over the course of 10 songs, Bridges doesn’t channel Bad Blake (his inner Waylon Jennings) so much as he evokes J.J. Cale. His singing isn’t particularly strong, and it’s a bit disappointing he didn’t write more of these songs, but he gives convincing performances, especially on the bouncy opener “What a Little Bit of Love Can Do” and the country weeper “Everything But Love.” He certainly elevates the proceedings beyond a mere vanity project.
“Hell, I’ve been playing and singing my whole life,” he said. “It’s another role I play. I love it.”
I asked Bridges the “life-changing art” question for this blog, and his response surprised me. I’ll post it soon.