As the latest step in his ongoing Dude-ification, Jeff Bridges’ self-titled second record is as inevitable as it is superfluous. Once merely a respected character actor and occasional leading man in quirky cinematic cult favorites, Bridges is now viewed as the real-life version of Jeff Lebowski (crossed with Bad Blake from Crazy Heart). Overseen by Crazy Heart soundtrack producer T-Bone Burnett, Jeff Bridges is one shaggy-dog of a record, ambling along amiably without a clear destination in mind. It fits with Bridges’ image—and the record’s back-porch country-rock sound is exactly what you’d expect from “Dude Blake”—but the album is saddled with an unfortunate (and unprecedented) problem at its core: The weakest part of this Jeff Bridges project is its star.
Featuring a killer supporting cast of backing musicians that includes guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer Jay Bellerose, as well as singers Ryan Bingham and Rosanne Cash, Jeff Bridges is like a film with breathtaking cinematography and a spirited but ultimately weak lead performance. As an actor playing a singer, Bridges is first-rate; but as a singer trying to sell a song, Bridges has limited expressiveness. He can play craggy, dropping into a low croak on “Slow Boat” (one of three Bridges’ originals); and he can play slightly less craggy, as he does on Stephen Bruton’s heart-rending “What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do.” It works in fits and starts, but overall Jeff Bridges—and here’s a word you’d never apply to one of his films—is a little boring. The album might be an extension of its namesake’s enduring Dude-itude, but this time he’s takin’ it a little too easy for all us sinners.