Making a Scene Presents an Interview with Blind Lemon Pledge
Throughout his recording and performing career, Blind Lemon Pledge, aka Bay Area bluesman James Byfield, has gained critical recognition for the broad scope of his stylistic skills; and for his ability to capture the essence of American Roots Music in his compositions. From Blues to Rock to Folk with stops at Cajun and Country along the way, Pledge’s music has received rave reviews for his ability to smoothly mix genres to create a unique and personal form of American Music. In 2019, he surprised and delighted critics with his first foray into an all jazz record, the nostalgic “After Hours.”
On his new album, “Goin’ Home”, Blind Lemon Pledge once again defies expectations by releasing a sparse solo album of cover tunes ranging from Deep Blues to Folk and Traditional to contemporary tunesmiths like JJ Cale. “Goin’ Home” showcases Pledge’s performing skills in a blemishes-and-all, stripped down collection of the songs and styles that have inspired Pledge’s own songwriting.
Composing his first songs at age eight, James Byfield has had a lifelong fascination with a wide range of musical genres. In his early teen years, he explored various strains of American Roots Music: Country Blues, Jug Band, Zydeco, Folk, Country and Western, etc. Simultaneously he learned to play Rock and electric Blues.
While playing in a variety of Rock bands down the years, Byfield also explored more exotic forms of music including Jazz, Chinese Classical Music and an abiding interest in Electronic Music and computer recording techniques. All of these strains of music came together to create his eclectic and evocative compositional style, and to inform his studio production skills.
In 2008, following a long and honored career as a graphics designer and media producer, Byfield reconnected with his Blues and Americana roots and created the musical persona Blind Lemon Pledge, releasing the album “Living My Life With the Blues” under that name, a “lift” from an old Martin Mull routine. Over the course of eight albums, Blind Lemon Pledge has earned a reputation for beautifully produced, recorded, and conceptualized albums featuring Byfield’s award winning words and music.
While fronting an eponymously named acoustic blues quintet, Byfield continues to maintain a two front musical career with public performance and solo records, often highlighting guest musicians. In 2019, he released an album of all jazz compositions, taking a performance back seat to a skilled quartet, while Byfield helmed the composition, producing and arranging duties.
“Goin’ Home”, Blind Lemon Pledge’s newest release, is an eclectic collection of the music, as varied as James Byfield’s original compositions. With just vocals, guitar and bass, Pledge captures the spare, unadorned quality of the preWar recordings that inspired Byfield’s early musical tastes. The mix of Blues, Country, Pop, Jazz and, even Gospel is representative of the unique amalgam of influences that is the music of Blind Lemon Pledge.