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STEVE PLEDGER - Striking Matches In The Wind

STEVE PLEDGER - Striking Matches In The Wind
Story Records STREC1657

Steve Pledger is a troubadour, based in Somerset, who raised more than a few eyebrows with his 2012 debut album 14 Good Intentions. It was clear that a new voice had appeared to pick up the torch of the socially relevant, protest singer. One song in particular became a cult hit: and I refer there to his passionate cri de coeur against throwing away one’s vote on riff-raff...Abstention Song.

And that song is most illustrative of the Pledger approach to song writing. Try to make the lyrics always relevant; fit them to a tune that sticks in the memory; and look for a chorus that will knock ‘em dead.

It was a very good song indeed. Perhaps it should have been de rigueur for all potential voters at this year’s UK election: for I certainly have heeded his call to abstain. But impressive though that song is, it is also illustrative of his weakness as a songwriter: an occasional inability to make every word pay its rent in the line.

What do I mean? Well, take the first line of that song’s chorus: “You two-faced, lying, hypocrites”. It seems to me, that there is more than an element of tautology there. I cannot imagine many of the fine lyricists from the Great American Songbook era, penning such a line. That said, he delivered it with such brio in his splendid impassioned vocals, that one instantly forgave him.

And now we come to the famous potential stumbling block: the dreaded second album. How does he fare?

Well, first let me say it is an unalloyed delight on the ear. He is joined by five guest artistes, two of whom make a powerful impact on the listener. Tanya Allen’s fiddle, and Lukas Drinkwater’s bowed double bass, both catch your heart with their beauty.

Again, don’t look for songs with lyrics that show great verbal felicity but gosh, he can be a very effective wordsmith. How? Well, I guess by writing stuff that is straight from the heart. It just totally convinces in its sincerity. And his voice has real impact: a sort of “Tom Robinson meets Kieran Halpin”.

There are three songs that totally persuaded me. A Heart Filled With Nothing To Do tells the story of an elderly lady who died when social services were cut and she became lost in the system and nobody visited.

Friends & Fathers tells a story of a man returning from WW2 still bearing the mental scars of conflict and being unable to relate to his family...not helped by the fact that when a child himself, he did not have the best of starts.

And, in Loving Condescension, we have the standout track. It is a truly beautiful song with a gorgeously singable chorus, and captures the sweet innocence of young love and the attendant hope that it can be preserved throughout the years ahead for those young lovers, despite life’s vicissitudes.

The sublime melody alone, will see to it that this song has legs. I predict it will still be sung many years from now.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 108 of The Living Tradition magazine.