Blind Lemon Pledge

Blind Lemon Pledge

Blind Lemon Pledge (aka James Byfield) knows how to mine the depths of acoustic blues and roots songwriting like few others. The Bay Area guitarist, poet, and roots music devotee returns with his 10th album, Oh So Good. Joining him on the dozen new tracks are once again Peter Grenell on bass and drummer Juli Moscovitz, who add gentle accompaniment to Byfield’s mostly acoustic guitar work and home spun vocals on a set of eleven originals and a cover of the beloved “House Of The Risin’ Sun.”

The delightful clap trap rhythm and singalong melody of album opener, “Big Bill,” quickly conjures up images of American mining towns and classic tales of old like My Darlin’ Clementine and Sixteen Tons. The playful “Junkyard Dog” follows with hootin’ and howling good time fun. The title track is a ragtime ramble throw back from the tin pan alley days that finds Pledge giving testimony to his reformed ways and how he’s been “Oh So Good,” as a pledge of devotion. He digs deep into the blues playing the part of a man done wrong on the slow swinging “How Can I Still Love You.”

The trio kicks up the energy for the happy go lucky off kilter jump blues “Hard Heart Honey Bee,” and deliver their version of a Cajun two step, “Ma Belle Cherie,” flavored with creole patois. The lilting “Moon Over Memphis” has timeless character with its evocative imagery and pleading melody that make it an instant classic. Byfield adds his own specialty dance number to the lexicon with the wacky “Go Jump The Willie,” and quickly changes the mood with the lament for a lost lover “Cora Lee.” The trio have a little fun with a variety of new sounds on the jug band styled rhumba “Come Back Little Sheba,” and Byfield testifies to his maker while softly strumming his guitar on the Gospel number “Give My Poor Heart Ease.”

First recorded in 1933 by Appalachian artists Clarence “Tom” Ashley and Gwen Foster, “House Of The Risin’ Sun,” has been covered by dozens of artists. Byfield and company straighten out the beat with a thumping rhythm section and add eerie slide guitar to accompany the fateful tale of a life gone wrong in The Crescent City.

Blind Lemon Pledge once again demonstrates his gifts as a prolific songwriter, who continues to fearlessly explore the depths of folk, jazz, blues, and Americana.

Rick J Bowen


In 2021, Blind Lemon Pledge (aka Bay Area bluesman James Byfield) released “A Satchel Full of Blues”, an eclectic and wide-ranging collection of original American Roots based songs set to a stripped-down combo sound with drums, bass, guitar, and harmonica. Garnering a slew of rave reviews, the album went to the top of the Blues charts, landing the #9 spot on the Roots Music Report’s Acoustic Blues Album Chart for 2021, and #85 on the RMR Top 200 Blues Albums. One critic in Britain hailed it as one of the top 25 blues albums of the year. “Oh So Good,” Pledge’s 10th album of originals and covers displays Pledge’s impressive compositional range with tunes ranging from Blues to Folk to Jazz to Cajun, with a startling and original take on the folk and blues classic “House of the Risin’ Sun”.

Byfield has a lifelong love of music and penned his first song at age eight, launching his ongoing fascination with the magic synergy between melody and lyrics. In his early teens, he discovered a world of great music through the twist of his radio dial. The pre-WWII Country Blues, including the great recordings of his stage-namesake Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House, Skip James and others had a huge influence on his early musical development; at the same time he also absorbed an influencing mix of Rock, Folk, Country, Jug Band, Zydeco and other genres, sometimes called Americana and Roots Music.

In high school, the young musician joined his boomer contemporaries in the 60’s Rock explosion. Over the years, he played in a variety of bands, as well as finding time to explore more exotic forms of music including jazz, a 5-year stint studying Chinese Classical Music and an abiding interest in electronic music and computer recording techniques. At one point, testing his compositional skills, he created the first ever Rock Music Mass under the aegis of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Ushering in the use of modern Rock Music in a liturgical setting, it received national press and was performed throughout California.

In 2008, following a long and honored career as a graphics designer and media producer, Byfield reconnected with his Blues and Americana roots, created the musical persona Blind Lemon Pledge, and began performing and recording under that name. The first BLP album, “Livin’ My Life With the Blues,” a mixture of original songs and blues classics, was self-recorded. Byfield soon found a market through the power of the Internet, allowing him to gain international radio play and a warm critical reception in the blues community.

While fronting an eponymously named acoustic blues quintet, Byfield continues to maintain a two front musical career with public performance and solo records that often feature guest musicians. His albums have received international airplay and critical raves. His original songs have won several awards and nominations in the blues, folk, jazz, and gospel categories.

BLP’s latest release, Oh So Good, is a fun and toe-tapping collection of his trademark eclectic, genre-bending songs that highlight the lyrical and musical influences that have created James Byfield’s uniquely American songwriting style. From hard driving to soft and lyrical, the songs are a musical journey through the heart of American Roots Music.





MARCH 20, 2024