Artist: Blind Lemon Pledge
Record Label: Ofeh Records
Genre: Blues and Americana
The artist’s name ‘Blind Lemon Pledge’ sounds almost comical when you hear it for the first time, until you listen to James Byfield’s latest album ‘Evangeline’. “Evangeline” is the fourth album by critically acclaimed singer/composer/producer/arranger and multi-instrumentalist Blind Lemon Pledge. It features original music that includes jump jive, deep blues, New Orleans beats, salsa heat, heart tugging ballads and prison chants, showing how unafraid Mr. Byfield is to get down and dirty with authentic blues music.
As Blind Lemon says, “Prepare to take a music journey through the soul of America” and he puts it quite accurately too; don’t forget to pick up your jaw once you start listening to this album!
|Go Jump the Willie|
|Language of Love|
|Ham and Eggs|
|How Can I Still Love You|
|You Had Me at Goodbye|
- Buley’s Farm
What has me impressed with this track is its minimal use of instruments, giving more focus on vocals. James Byfield’s strong and raspy voice with the rugged vocal harmonyin the background not only stays true to the blues and fold tradition but also plays like a prison/chain gang theme song.“Every dollar gone before it’s got, cause I owe it all to Buley’s store… I ain’t stayin’ down on the farm” is what its lyrics are. Buley’s Farm is an authoritative and hard hitting song.
- Jennie Bell
This heartbreaking ballad talks of a man leaving behind his woman in order to pursue his musical career -“there’s a 6:03 to New Orleans, got a ticket, it took all my pay. Oh Jennie Bell, I’ve got to leave you. You know I’ve got to go away.” As James Byfield’s husky voice sings over the speakers, not only does it have us swooning… it also has our heart breaking with each and every strum of the guitar. Jennie Bell is a soft, far from soothing and yet deeply sad love letter.
- Brimstone Joe
Brimstone starts off with seductive vocals and instruments that soon transcend into a lively honky tonk – I cannot help but be impressed with the whole roller coaster ride of a song. The lyrics “watch out boy, you’re heading for trouble…drink one more and you might just disappear” gives the track an edgier feel, especially with James Byfield’s raspy voice over the quite (ironic) lively keyboard.
- Midnight Assignation
Midnight Assignation takes on a harder and more intense rock tone compared to the rest of the album. It is perhaps the least impressive of all the tracks.It doesn’t quite get to you and leaves you feeling like the track is so out of place.
- Go Jump the Willie
Go Jump the While is a track that would certainly make its inspiration Louis Jordan proud; the guitar playing is just profound, perfectly blending with the jazz piano. This is a track that takes us back to the 1900s with a silly grin on your face and might even have you “grab your partner and shake his sweet behind” as the lyrics tell you to.
- Language of Love
Such a lovely salsa twist to the album; what makes this track so impressive is Alvin Bakatcha’s percussions along with Gil T. Azell’s vibraphone. Just like the previous track, Language of Love will definitely have you pulling your partner away for a dance.
- Ham and Eggs
A track I did not expect but quite enjoyed. Who wouldn’t enjoy this fun and somewhat silly song!But that doesn’t stop Byfield from working towards perfection, even on a song that sounds like a nursery rhyme. Hats off to the wonderful harmony!
- How Can I Still Love You
I cannot help but feel in aweof the poetic lyrics incorporated into this track; the soulful quiet jazz of this track sticks with you even after the album ends. The keyboard contribution to the track complements Byfield’s melancholic jazzy croons.
- You Had Me at Goodbye
In spite of the sad lyrics, one can’t help but sit back and retreat into a bubble of their own. Blind Lemon Pledge’s vocals take on a smoother tone as he softly serenades his lost love. One cannot help but sink into this gentle confession.
A track that is hard to ignore,Evangeline is perfect harmonization. Sadness in both its lyrics and instrumentals contrast with the sharp acoustic blues guitar picking. The impressive slide guitar work, lethargic guitar picking and the singer’s bereaved crooning is what makes this track hard to skip.
Final Thoughts: An album that won’t fail to take you by surprise –Evangeline is full of twists and turns in it musical content: ranging from rock, jive, salsa to honky tonk, jazz and so on. But in spite of this, each track is able to stand on its own and shine in its own way. Evangeline is a well thought out and beautifully produced album that still remains authentic and true to its roots.
Pick of the Album: Buley’s Farm, Jennie Bell, You Had Me at Goodbye, Evangeline