Album Review

Singer-songwriter role suits Bridges

By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / August 16, 2011

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Jeff Bridges is not Bad Blake, the alcohol-ravaged country musician he portrayed in the 2009 film “Crazy Heart,’’ a role that won him an Oscar. He is, however, a fine musician whose self-titled debut album shares DNA with Blake’s rootsy, lived-in musings.

No mere vanity project, “Jeff Bridges’’ allows the actor, who has been playing since his teens, to display his skills as a singer and songwriter with exquisitely considered sonic backdrops by producer and longtime buddy T Bone Burnett. Featuring Burnett’s regular repertory of top-notch players, including guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer Jay Bellerose and the voices of Ryan Bingham and Rosanne Cash, the languid ballads, wry midtempo numbers, and catchy country jams conjure the haunted ambience of another Burnett production: “Raising Sand,’’ the Grammy-winning collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

Bridges contributes three original songs, one co-written with Burnett, and shines brightest on the spare “Falling Short.’’ With the help of Burnett’s ex-wife, singer-songwriter Sam Phillips, on backing vocals, Bridges observes that missing your mark can still take you to some interesting places. Elsewhere, Bridges breathes life into songs written by his friend John Goodwin, a writer of plain-spoken honesty and grace who provides the album’s highlight in “Maybe I Missed the Point,’’ a rumination on lost opportunity and a statement of resolve to not lose the best one.

Like many actors who try their hand at music, Bridges may have made this record because he could, and the acclaim for “Crazy Heart’’ offered him a prime opportunity. It’s so winning, however, because Bridges had something to say. (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “Maybe I Missed the Point’’