There are some gigs that you just feel privileged to be part of. On a crisp November evening, Steve Pledger launched his new album, Somewhere Between, at Dunster Castle in Somerset. As gig venues go, a genuine Castle is pretty tough to beat, and there's little doubt that location added a great deal to the excitement and anticipation. There's been a Castle in Dunster since the Norman Conquest, and it felt as if history itself was watching.
In a large room, by a fireplace that wouldn't have looked out of place in Hogwarts, and with stern figures gazing down from within ornate picture frames, Steve held a captivated audience in the palm of his hand throughout. Introduced by Neil King of Fatea, an almost giddy Steve was on top form, combining beautiful music with stories about the songs and his own world view, filled with warmth and wit.
In amongst the songs from the new album, most of which got a play, there were a few from his last album, the superb Matches In The Wind, and a couple of covers. One of these was a version of Hallelujah so good it could stand shoulder to shoulder with the Cohen and Buckley versions. Another was Arlo Guthrie's "Deportee" to which Steve had added references to the current refugee crisis, making the song even more topical. Of course we were all there to hear Steve showcase his new songs, and we were not disappointed.
Kicking off with the first song on the album, To Change The World, Steve perfectly set the tone for what was to follow. This was music with something to say about the world we find ourselves inhabiting. The theme running through the album is change and transition, and this was in full evidence throughout the gig. Starting with the inability of a song to change the world (though it may just change a heart or two), we were taken on a journey that took in mental health (Me & The Silence), the disgraceful benefit cuts of the last year or so (Doing Well, a worthy addition to the mini genre of songs inspired by Iain Duncan Smith), and the nature of democracy (Lefty, Wait Your Turn!). We even had a dip into the past with The Louisa Miner, about the death of a miner in his 40's who died of various lung related illnesses, the coroner colluding with the mine owners to report the death as unrelated to his occupation.
We even got an interview conducted by Brian Player of Blues and Roots Radio, with a few questions thrown in by the audience, and learned, amongst other things, where Steve's anger comes from ("Well, I have three children…").
This was a performance full of confidence, and Steve was completely at ease and comfortable with his surroundings. It almost had the feeling of a house gig, such was the intimacy that Steve's performance generated, helped of course by a location which felt a world away from the halls where such gigs usually occur.
The Somewhere Between tour takes place early next year across the country, and if this performance is anything to go by, it is going to be unmissable.
Adam Jenkins - Words, Neil King - Pictures
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