PressACCLAIMED BLUESMAN BLIND LEMON PLEDGE TAKES A “BACKWOODS GLANCE” AT AMERICANA MUSIC
(San Francisco, CA) Even a guy with the stage name Blind Lemon Pledge can’t sing the blues all the time! After a nearly decade long discography exploring a multitude of blues-related styles, Blind Lemon Pledge (aka James Byfield) is taking a ‘Backwoods Glance’ with a new album that explores the Americana, Folk, and Country influences that are also an important part of his musical heritage. Releasing April 4, 2017, the new album will be distributed by CDBaby and available on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and other major outlets.
Critically praised on his previous albums for his deft handling of diverse and eclectic musical styles,
Pledge does not disappoint with this new collection. With styles ranging from line dance swing to Appalachian folk to Cajun stomp, with detours to romantic waltz, jug band hoot and Southern Country Gospel along the way, Blind Lemon Pledge proves once again that his skills as a songwriter, musician and producer know no bounds.
Says Pledge “I had a batch of songs I wanted to record, but which I knew would never fit on a straight blues album. And having had good success in the Blues arena, I thought I would try my luck in the Americana market. I gathered some older material and wrote a few more songs specifically for the project. Although
you can still hear my blues influence on a few of the tunes, my overall concept was to create a Folk and Americana feel to the album.”
Another major impetus for ‘Backwoods Glance’ was to capture the flavor of the several Bay Area Americana style round-robin jam sessions in which Pledge participates. At those freewheeling events, he has made music with a variety of outstanding musicians, including many who are not from his regular Blues Music circle. “I love great players and I wanted to make a record that reproduced the beautiful groove of those jams,” he says.
Although multi-instrumentalist Pledge has often self-created most or all of the backing tracks on his previous recordings, for this recording he handpicked a group of musicians from the jam sessions and from his blues band to round out the sound. In addition to Pledge on vocals, guitars and harmonica, the musicians include Tom Cline (dobro), Jimi Edwards (keyboards, percussion), Pledge’s regular bassist Peter Grenell, world class violinist/fiddler and band member Cal Keaoola, singer Marisa Malvino (harmonies and lead vocal) and John Pearson on cajon and percussion. Says Pledge, “It was great fun to record with musicians I love and respect.”
The album kicks off with the lively “Polly Come Out” which quickly establishes the new directions Pledge
is exploring on this album. Although the first two verses suggest a classic 12 bar blues pattern, the addition of dobro and fiddle, the loping country cadence of the melody and the addition of a chorus all establish the Americana feel that will carry throughout ‘Backwoods Glance’. The haunting “Hills of West Virginia” is a somber folk tune about the Appalachian miners and the problems they face. The Dylanesque “Fayetteville,” exemplifies Pledge’s superb storytelling ability with a song about homelessness sketched out in a few poignant lines.
Also included are: “Sisters of the Coal Dust”, written and sung from a woman’s perspective; “Moon Over Memphis” a heartbreaking waltz about lost love; “Lynchburg Town” another Dylanesque tune about unemployment; and the uplifting folk-rock anthem “Silver Wings”, about searching for dreams in Hollywood. “Sweet Celine” is all fun with a jug band feel and harmonica and slide guitar solos; “Carolina Kiss” is a keyboard driven, emotional love ballad about memory and loss; followed by “Sunset”, a classic folk-rocker. “My Belle Cherie” is a sudden detour into Cajun country with a humorous tune about young love and lust. The album finishes its musical journey with “Give My Poor Heart Ease” with echoes of old Southern Baptist hymns and a story of finding hope amidst despair, a theme that runs throughout the album and is concluded in this song.
One critic has described Blind Lemon Pledge as a “national treasure”. His previous albums, ‘Evangeline’ (2014) and ‘Pledge Drive’ (2016) have been hailed as ‘masterpieces” and received international critical praise and airplay with nominations for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Best Blues Tune and Best Blues Performance. ‘Backwoods Glance’ continues the musical journey of Blind Lemon Pledge in new directions. Powderfinger Promotions will be promoting the album to the Americana, Folk and Country markets.
"PLEDGE DRIVE" - A PERCUSSIVE THRILL RIDE FROM BLIND LEMON PLEDGE®
(San Francisco, CA) From the opening song with its unique take on the famous Bo Diddley beat to saxophone driven R 'n' B, from tender, haunting ballads to spooky harmonica tinged Blues, and from Hard Rock rhythms to good time Jug Band beats, "Pledge Drive", the latest addition to the Blind Lemon Pledge musical oeuvre, captures the startling diversity of musical styles and lyrical themes that are the signature of his unique musical vision.
Releasing March 2016, "Pledge Drive", his fifth album, highlights the mastery of disparate musical styles and compelling lyrics that Blind Lemon Pledge (aka James Byfield) brings to his surprising combination of songs and sounds. Says Pledge "The studio is my canvas and the music is my paint. This album gave me a chance to explore some of the harder edged songs in my repertoire. Sometimes, I guess I'm a rocker at heart.' Employing compelling percussion, electric guitars, keyboards, harmonica, saxophone and driving bass, Blind Lemon Pledge has fashioned 12 songs that propel the listener on a toe-tapping journey through American music.
Working out of his San Francisco studio, Blind Lemon Pledge combines both a recording and performing career that has captured international critical recognition and fans from around the globe. "Evangeline", his 2013 acoustic oriented album, won praise for its panoply of styles and musical sounds, with everything from a work gang chant to folk and country ballads to piano driven New Orleans beats. Pledge hopes that this new album, with its divergent path, will continue to please old fans while gaining some new recognition.
The first cut sets the stage for the percussive ride that is to come. "Run John Run" features a complex version of the famous Bo Diddley riff combined with Second Line percussion elements. The lyrical theme is the infamous Night Riders of the post-bellum South. "I wanted to do something with Bo’s beat for a long time," says Pledge. "I was watching that great old movie 'Buck and The Preacher' and had a sudden inspiration for a story to match the beat."
Next up is "Moon Madness", a spooky meditation on stalkers driven by the expert harmonica of Jenny Reed. Says Pledge, "I met Jenny a couple of months before recording and realized her great harmonica (featured on two more tracks) was just the sound I wanted on this album." The following track "Nag Nag Nag" features the first of two appearances by saxophonist Rick LeCompte. "Rick's an old friend of mine and I love his playing. I tried to capture some of the feeling of Allen Toussaint's New Orleans classics."
The album progresses with "Cora Lee", a tender blues ballad with a surprising flute solo; "Birmingham Walk" a hard driven song about the 60’s sit-ins, with a Little Feat Southern beat sound; "5 Weeks of Heaven", a Stones/Bobby Keyes-like rocker with sax; and "She Broke the Ten Commandments" with a slide guitar/harmonica combo that gives it a haunting edge. "You Can’t Get There from Here" features a sparse jazz/blues tinged arrangement with echoes of Ray Charles country ballads. "O Katrina" rides a slide guitar riff to explore the effects of the infamous hurricane. Slide guitar also dominates the Bessie Smith like "You Know You Really Got the Blues". The album finishes with "Kokomo" a truly original take on office rage and "Railroad Mama" another harmonica song which reflects Pledge's Jug Band musical roots.
By album's end, the listener has been propelled on a musical drive through the heart of America.