BLIND LEMON PLEDGE® – A UNIQUE BLUES AND AMERICANA ARTIST
“Pledge Drive”, the fifth album from critically acclaimed musician / composer / producer Blind Lemon Pledge (aka James Byfield), is a percussive thrill ride of rocking Blues and Americana. From his original take on the famous Bo Diddley beat, to sax driven R ‘n’ B, to tender, haunting ballads, to the final explosive Jug Band romp, Blind Lemon Pledge delivers the startling diversity of musical styles and lyrical themes that are the signature of his unique music.
Since childhood, James Byfield has been deeply involved with music. He wrote his first song at 8 years old and began a life-long love of melody and lyrics, and the magical synergy between the two. At 14, he picked up his first guitar and discovered the “country blues” of the pre-WWII era, e.g. Sun House, Bukka White, and stage-namesake Blind Lemon Jefferson, just to name a few. As he grew, he experimented with a variety of musical forms including Blues, Jazz, Country, Folk and Rock ‘N’ Roll, with the occasional foray into Classical and other forms…even Chinese Classical, learning the er hu a two-stringed Chinese fiddle.
He gained his first critical attention with “Blessed Be the Lord”, credited in a Time Magazine article as the first use of hard rock music in a liturgical setting. Under the aegis of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Byfield toured with his Rock Mass across Northern California, gaining press coverage, a certain notoriety and a love of new and unusual directions in music.
After graduation from San Francisco State University, Byfield played music in a wide variety of milieus for the next several years, both in band settings and as a solo performer. His ongoing career as an award-winning graphic designer, multi-media producer and animator has continued to benefit him as he creates graphics for his albums and web sites and produces his original videos.
In 2008, Byfield was able to devote all his time to his music and launched a recording and performance career under the stage name Blind Lemon Pledge (trademarked in 2015). In 2009, he completed his first solo LP “Livin’ My Life with the Blues” which combined classic blues songs and his originals, all set with the sound of an old-time blues string band similar to early Muddy Waters, Sleepy John Estes, and the Gus Cannon Jug Band among others. This completely self-produced and self-recorded album received international airplay and was named one of the Top Blues Albums by KPIG Radio.
In 2010, fronting an acoustic blues band, he released a second album of material under the Blind Lemon Pledge moniker, another combination of classic blues and originals with a couple of reworked pop classics such as The Rolling Stones “No Expectations” thrown into the mix. The album “I Would Rather Go Blind” has a clean, spare sound with guitars, keyboards, harmonica and bass. This album also received international airplay and was again cited by KPIG Radio, as well as being listed in the top 100 singer/songwriter albums by iTunes Ireland and iTunes Austria. The album continues to sell CDs and downloads to this day.
2013 saw the release of “Against the Grain”, this time featuring all original tunes with a different grouping of musicians, and including everything from Folk Rock to Swing to Southern Gospel. The diversity of styles set the stage for his next two releases as Blind Lemon Pledge. For “Evangeline”, his 2014 release, Byfield fully explored the possibilities of multiple styles and thematic elements. Harking back to his first solo outing, he played all the instruments himself as well as acting as producer and editor. Blending his Blues and Rock influence with Jazz and American Songbook techniques, Blind Lemon Pledge has created a unique musical hybrid that echoes Muddy Waters, Hoagy Carmichael, Randy Newman and Bob Dylan, while offering a range of carefully crafted songs from Blues to Ballads to Rock to Honky Tonk and more. “Evangeline” received world-wide critical praise including a well-received review in Blues Blast Magazine.
Now, in 2016, the unique musical vision of Blind Lemon Pledge emerges once again with the release of “Pledge Drive”. With a harder, more electric sound than his previous albums, “Pledge Drive” captures the energy and exuberance of Pledge’s many years playing Rock ‘n’ Roll. With his hallmark eclectic bag of styles and themes, ranging from the post-bellum South, to Hurricane Katrina, to Office Rage to meditations on love and the meaning of the blues, Blind Lemon Pledge brings a lifetime of experience to new and surprising directions in Blues and Americana music.