James Byfield is Blind Lemon Pledge. His style is eclectic and not exactly my cup of tea, but the creative lyrics and weird but cool stories he tells are the high point here.
Byfield starts with a Bo Diddley beat on “Run John Run,” transitions into a creepy song about a stalker called “Moon Madness” and then adds some sax and goes a bit honky-tonk with “Nag, Nag, Nag.” It was an interesting start but his gasping sort of vocal approach did not win me over. “Cora Lee” is a breathy and melancholy song that is next using a flute to change things up. “Birmingham Walk” is a civil rights cut that is very southern in it’s sound. “5 Weeks of Heaven” has some more sax for effect in a driving song with an intense beat.
“She Broke the Ten Commandments” is a weirdly dark song about religion and heartbreak. Jenny Reed’s harp is very interesting and well done here. “You Can’t Get There from Here” is a ballady sort of jazzy cut where I think Byfield’s vocals were decently represented. Then the rocking “O Katrina” tells us about the hurricane destruction of a decade ago. Musically interesting stuff. “You Know You Really Got the Blues” features some nice slide guitar and piano. “Kokomo” is a job layoff song where Byfield gets shorted on his last check and gun play results. The album concludes with “Railroad Mama,” giving us a jug band sort of feel. Nice harp work starts things off and he washboard and jug band sound is cool.
I honestly did not enjoy Blind Lemon Pledge’s vocals. The songs were really interesting and original and the music on the album was good, but the vocals did not impress me. Breathy, slightly off key and eclectic; perhaps there is an audience for that sort of singing, but it left me dry. If you are looking for something very different, this may be for you.