Blind Lemon Pledge: Evangeline



San Francisco based singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Blind Lemon Pledge (aka James Byfield) chats with Big Blend Radio about his latest album, “Evangeline.”

The harsh rattle of work gang chants, the lilting blues of a New Orleans speakeasy, the biting rock of a Southern roadhouse, the quick percussion of a Latin combo, the haunting slide of a Delta holler, and the touching romanticism of heartfelt ballads all combine in a tasty gumbo that is “Evangeline.”

Debuting in April of 2018, Mr. Pledge (aka James Byfield) has combined diverse array of styles, while his songwriting sensibilities make the whole project come together. Says Byfield “I wanted to do an album that really captured the different influences that have gone into my songwriting. I was fortunate to be able to hone each arrangement to capture the feeling of the variety of genres.” Listening to the album is like taking a tour through America’s roots musical legacy with overtones of deep Southern blues, Hoagy Carmichael swing, and almost Byrds-like melodicism.

Working from his Bay Area studio, James Byfield fronts an eponymously named Blues String Band while maintaining a separate musical identity as a solo recording artist. “I Would Rather Go Blind”, his 2010 album of classic blues and originals was named by KPIG Radio as one of the Top Albums of the year. It was also named in the Top 100 Singer/Songwriter Albums by iTunes Ireland and iTunes Austria. His 2016 release of “Pledge Drive” saw several of the cuts top the respected Roots Music and Cashbox Magazine Charts, while garnering Best Song nominations and awards, as well as three slots on the first round Grammy Ballot. In 2017, he debuted “Backwoods Glance” which explored Pledge’s folk and Americana roots. This album also went on to nominations, awards, and Grammy Ballot placement. All of Pledge’s six albums have received international airplay and sales.

Due to the expanding recognition Blind Lemon Pledge has received with his last two projects, he decided to rerelease his 2014 classic “Evangeline”. Called by several reviewers “must have” and a “masterpiece”, “Evangeline” set new standards for Blues and Americana music with the unique and eclectic blend of themes and styles for which Blind Lemon Pledge has become known.

The album opens with “Buley’s Farm” an acoustic field holler with a cigar box guitar backing. Byfield comments “I have always loved the sound of those old John Lomax chain gang recordings. And I wanted to do a modern take on the genre while still keeping the sound and feel of the old recordings.”

Very quickly, the album shifts gears and moves into “Jennie Bell”, a folk ballad which continues some of the themes introduced in the first song, while hinting at the variety of styles that are set to come throughout the album. “Brimstone Joe”, a dark and devil-tinged blues with a decidedly New Orleans feel comes next, leading, after a long fade, into “Midnight Assignation”, a roadhouse rocker with a mean slide guitar sound reminiscent of early Allman Brothers. The first four songs create a mini song cycle reflecting the movement of blues from the country to the city.

As the album progresses we are treated to “Go Jump the Wille” – Jump Jive ala Louis Jordan; a salsa tinged trip to Puerto Rico in “Language of Love”; a Cole Porterish “Ham and Eggs”; “How Can I Still Love You” – a jazz/blues number reminiscent of Mose Allison; and a Byrds-like folk rock ballad with “You Had Me at Goodbye”. The album ends in a musical bookend with another roots number, the title song “Evangeline”. This deep blues is accompanied by acoustic slide and echoes the country blues of Son House and other greats of the genre.

Sit back and travel with Blind Lemon Pledge as he takes you down the musical streams of American Music.

Song Game -Spontuneous National Parks Arts Foundation



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