Steve PledgerSteve Pledger
Album: Striking Matches In The Wind
Label: Story
Tracks: 12

As any smoker, reformed or unreformed or arsonist come to that knows, striking matches in the wind is quite easy, doing it right so the lit match can actually do something useful is much harder. Of course you could always make the task that bit easier and grab a Ronson, 'lights first time every time' or even join the dash for gas and whilst both have a certain style, panache, they are more complicated, becoming more about the tool than the purpose. Striking matches in the wind may look like a simple skill, but by its very nature it's more difficult than it looks and to do it right takes effort.

The same is true of songwriting, the flash of inspiration/genius has to do more than flare, for a song to have lasting impact it needs to infuse the fire and there is absolutely no doubt that Steve Pledger has infused the fire.

The songs are stripped back to the basics, sometimes just Steve and his guitar, sometimes with one or more of Lukas Drinkwater(bass), Tanya Allen(fiddle), Giles Newman Turner(harmonica) and Andrew 'Rocky' Rock(accordion) and, on one occasion, "There We Are" an absolutely stunning duet with Story Records label mate, Ange Hardy.

When you've got your songs stripped back, it's important to make sure every word, every note matters, particularly in the arrangements that involve other instruments and I have to say the level of understatement by Steve's supporting core of musicians is absolutely stunning. The touches so subtle, but so essential, there is a real feel for the songs that they enhance.

The songs themselves are all so well defined, emotional, evocative, with a clarity of purpose, something that remains consistent throughout, regardless of it being a deeply personal song, such as "Friends And Fathers", or venting frustration at the world in general, "This Land Is Poundland", a sentiment I'm sure most of us can relate to as the world around is stripped back to cost, rather than value.

"Striking Matches In The Wind" is an emotional ride, but not one that dwells in melancholia, there are more upbeat songs contained on the album, one that shows that as a writer, Pledger understands the role that hope and inspiration provide in the human condition like "The Parable Of Intent" which also includes that reminder to follow through with action.

Just like the act described in both the album title and the sign off song, a small light shining in the darkness can bring a real focus to what's important, be it something to be seen from afar or to provide clarity to what's close to you. "Striking Matches In The Dark" is something that has got to be done properly for it to be effective and this is an album that has done that and more.

Steve Pledger has emerged as a song writer of real talent and whilst it's a crowded market place, he has a light shine above his head that should make him easy to pick out, go seek.

Neil King

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