BLIND LEMON PLEDGE – ACOUSTIC MUSIC FOR THE SOUL
A steaming bowl of Delta and Chicago blues, a dash of New Orleans, a taste of country, and a teaspoon of rock, all flavored with a unique songwriting sensibility, create the tasty gumbo that is Blind Lemon Pledge. This San Francisco based quartet, the creation of songwriter/vocalsist James Byfield, features bluesy vocals, guitars, bottleneck slide, fiddle, mandolin and bass and plays a combination of blues classics, re-imagined rock/pop standards and sparkling originals. It is the sound of a modern string band paying homage to the great pre-WWII string ensembles of early Muddy Waters, Son House, and Sleepy John Estes and capturing the free-wheeling spirit of The Memphis Jug Band and Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, while adding a distinctively modern aura.
Their first album “I Would Rather Go Blind” was aired internationally and selected as one of the Top Blues Albums of 2010 by KPIG Radio and in the 2010 Top 100 Singer/Songwriter Albums on iTunes Ireland and iTunes Austria.
Their newest EP album “Against the Grain”, explores new territory with the addition of drums and keyboard to the quartet sound. Songs range from the folk rock song “Lynchburg Town” to the New Orleans trumpet based “Buddy Bolden’s Song”. “Rich People in Love” is a fun spoof of Cole Porter swing classics, while “Bobbi’s Blues” creates the sound of jazz ballads. Rounding it off is “Give My Poor Heart Ease” which feels like an old time Southern Gospel dirge. The album finishes with an acoustic/folk rendering of the opening track.
James Byfield formed Blind Lemon Pledge in 2008, posting on craigslist to audition and finally assemble the original team. Conceived as a weekly old-time jam session, what was, at first, a loose amalgam of musicians quickly became a tight quartet of players devoted to the sound and styles of the full spectrum of American blues. As the band developed, other styles and influences (including Byfield’s extensive Americana-influenced songbook) soon broadened the sound. A few fortuitous personnel changes brought in some of the top players in the area and eventually resulted in the current band which has a unique sound all their own: part blues, part rock, part New Orleans, part country, part modern folk…and all fun.
The current line-up includes:
• James Byfield – vocals, guitars / strings, songwriter
Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist James Byfield has composed and recorded in a variety of styles from blues to rock to pop. He is credited by Time Magazine with creating the first use of rock music in a liturgical setting with his “Rock Mass”, performed throughout California. His original compositions have been featured in films, stage productions and commercials. He produced the band’s album “I Would Rather Go Blind” and creates the graphics and PR materials for the band including their website: www.blues.james-creative.com. He also plays guitar, sings and composes for the American Songbook duet “As Time Goes By”.
• Cal Keaoola – fiddle, vocals
A native of Hawaii, Cal is a fiddling violinist well versed in all styles from Folk & Blues to Jazz & Latin. In 2001, he completed a US Rodeo Circuit Tour with Pearl River Country Band and Country Music Hall of Fame’s Patrick Haggerty. He is featured on 5 Hawaiian Grammy Award winning albums of the early 2000’s; and has performed with legendary rock band, It’s a Beautiful Day; Bill Keith of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Band; Scotland’s, Alasdair Fraser; Hawaii’s Don Ho; Bobby Black & John Ely of Asleep at the Wheel; and blues artist Johnny Nitro. He is current member of As Time Goes By (jazz duo) and Callisto String Quartet. He also sits in with Left Coast Special (Cajun-Zydeco), Blue Ambiance (Gypsy Jazz) and The Billy Boys (country-rock). As former faculty and Artist-in-Residence of the esteemed NC School of the Arts and Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC, Cal continues to teach/coach students in classical/jazz violin, and Latin/folk/bluegrass fiddling in the Bay Area.
• Huntley Barad – vocals, stand-up bass
Born in St. Louis, Huntley Barad was exposed to the early roots of Blues, Country & Western, R&B, and Rockabilly as a youngster in the fifties. Starting piano lessons in the fourth grade, he got into jazz improvisation by his early teens, and started playing in bands in his 20s. In the eighties, Huntley played in a series of now forgotten (actually never known) New Wave, rockabilly, and blues bands, playing keys and singing. He emigrated to San Francisco in the late eighties and was soon heard playing keys, guitar, bass and singing in living rooms, basements, clubs, street fairs, festivals, and private parties. He has backed noted headliners such as Jimmy McCracklin, Joe Louis Walker, Sugar Pie Desanto, and now Blind Lemon Pledge. Besides providing stand-up bass for the group, Huntley wails the blues with his uniquely gritty and stirring vocals.
• Jim O’Mara – guitar, mandolin, vocals
Lead, rhythm, fingerstyle and slide guitarist as well as mandolinist with 30 years professional experience in a variety of styles including Folk, Blues, Rock, Celtic and all points in-between. Played stages up and down the East and West Coast as well as Ireland as a headliner, sideman or as an opening act for a diverse array of artists and personalities, including: B.B. King, The Four Tops, Bonnie Raitt, Black Uhuru (at CBGB’s), Howard Stern, Senators Russ Feingold and Dan Coates, Ritchie Havens, The Clancy Brothers, with members of the Steve Miller Band, Billy Joel, Dave Mason, Fairport Convention, Blood Sweat and Tears bands and more. The newest member, Jim’s instrumental expertise adds a unique flair to each song.
With a repertoire of over 50 songs (and growing), Blind Lemon Pledge is bringing their unique blend of classic songs and crowd-pleasing originals to night clubs, coffee houses, street fairs, corporate events and private gatherings throughout Northern California. Visit them on the web at: www.blues.james-creative.com, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Lemon-Pledge/#!/, or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.