Blind Lemon Pledge review…July 14, 2017….

BLIND LEMON PLEDGE

AND FRIENDS

BACKWOODS GLANCE

OFEH RECORDS

POLLY COME OUT–THE HILLS OF WEST VIRGINIA–SISTERS OF THE COAL MINE–MOON OVER MEMPHIS–LYNCHBURG TOWN–FAYETTEVILLE–SILVER WINGS–SWEET CELINE–CAROLINA KISS–SUNSET MA BELLE CHERIE–GIVE MY POOR HEART EASE

This San Fran-based bluesman has been entranced by country-blues since first picking up a guitar at age 14.  That love of the music of the pre-WWII masters led to his adopting the moniker Blind Lemon Pledge, altho he is widely-known as James Byfield.  He has released five albums since 2009, and in March, 2016, we were proudly privileged to review “Pledge Drive.”  These albums were all predominantly blues-related affairs, but his latest set delves deeply into the sounds of Americana—traditional folk, gospel, and even Cajun threads run thru the twelve original cuts that comprise “Backwoods Glance.”

Along with Blind Lemon on vocals and guitars, we have Tom Cline on dobro, Jimi Edwards on keys and percussion, Peter Grenell on bass, Carl Keaoola on the fiddle, John Pearson on exotic percussion, and Marisa Malvino on vocals.  Those traditional sounds of dobro and fiddle lead off the set, with the barn-dance groove of “Polly Come Out,” where our hero is likened to “a polecat growlin” on the prowl for love!  “Moon Over Memphis” is a piano-heavy waltz that deals with old memories and lost love, with a heartfelt nod to the King and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”

“The Hills Of West Virginia” is a haunting tale of the uncertainties of mining life in Appalachia, and Marisa takes the lead vocal as she looks at the whole thing from the point of view of  the “Sisters Of The Coal Mines,” who fight the good fight for better conditions after losing loved ones to mining accidents.

“Lynchburg Town” has s Dylan vibe, dealing with more economic hard times, and is followed up by the plight of the homeless “when the mine played out,” and who now live “on the streets of Fayetteville.”

These set closes with two of our favorites.  “Ma Belle Cherie” is a fiddle-fired Cajun tune about young lust that would fit in well at your next fais do do!  The finale is a powerful reminder to us all that God never puts on us more than we can handle, and redemption is only a prayer away to “Give My Poor Heart Ease.”

Blind Lemon Pledge has been called a national treasure, and we have no reason to disagree.  The material on “Backwoods Glance” is, at times, stark, bold, playful, and redemptive, but Blind Lemon Pledge has the chops to pull it off, honed thru time spent playing in the Bay Area Americana jam session circles.  Even tho it is a departure from his blues works, this set stands proudly on its own merits alongside them.   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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