STEVE PLEDGER – Striking Matches In The Wind (Story Records STREC1657)

SMITWBorn in Cambridge, raised in St Neots and now based in Somerset, Pledger’s been quietly building a following over the past 20 years, relying on just his voice, guitar and some damn fine songwriting. This is his second album and he describes the song as being concerned with “the power of the apparently powerless to achieve what often feels like an impossible task.” So, contemporary social protest songs basically, occasionally leavened with matters of the heart, Pledger’s fingerpicked and strummed guitar augmented here and there by Lukas Drinkwater on double bass, Tanya Allen on fiddle, and harmonica and accordion from Giles Newman Turner and Andrew Rock, respectively. The luminously talented Ange Hardy also joins him to add harmonies to the chokingly sung, heart-piercing end of a relationship a cappella number ‘There We Are’.

Listening to ‘People Who Care’ and the barbed ‘This Land Is Pound Land’ it’s impossible not to think of Martyn Joseph, one of Pledger’s acknowledged influences, and I’d suspect Martyn himself would be flattered by the comparison, though elsewhere you’ll also hear Don Maclean (the lyrically anthemic ‘take a stand’ ‘Matches In The Wind’), Woody Guthrie (‘The Parable of Intent’, a call to accept the reponsibility we have to the earth and those less fortunate than ourselves) and, on the bluesy mid-tempo harmonica blowing ‘Quit Blubbin’ In The Cheap Seats’ (a song about the real mindset of the austerity brigade), maybe also Billy Bragg, while the bluesy folk guitar playing on ‘Beneath The Sun’ suggests Davey Graham’s in the mix too.

Pledger’s songs have the ability to cut to the emotional quick, as potently evidenced by the strummed, fiddle-accompanied, slow waltz ‘A Heart Filled With Nothing To Do’, inspired by an old lady who, her care service withdrawn, died alone with nobody aware of her situation, and the simple vocal and guitar ‘Friends & Fathers’, a song that relates the impact that the post-traumatic fallout from war can have on a family as the narrator recalls his mother telling him how, before his father left, he used kneel at his bedside, crying and saying how much he loved him. It’s impossible to listen without welling up.

There are brighter moments too, ‘Loving Condescension’ with its account of seeing two lovers taking a selfie while he was driving along the North Devon coast’ and ‘Days Like These’, a fingerpicked love song written for his wife’s birthday, the album balancing the light with the dark, the hope with the anger to kindle a spark and keep the fire burning.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: http://www.stevepledger.co.uk/

‘Friends & Fathers’ from Steve Pledger’s new album:

Steve Pledger – Striking Matches In The Wind album launch

Tithe Barn, Dunster, Somerset 14th March 2015

Steve Pledger live

Dunster based singer/songwriter Steve Pledger stunned audiences with his Striking Matches in The Wind album launch in the wonderful setting of the Tithe Barn in Dunster village. It is Steve’s second album and eagerly awaited by his followers. He gained a lot more that night!

Very few of us had heard the album beforehand, but were all aware that this was going to be an extra special evening with snippets heard from local radio stations before the launch and press interviews and reviews which were all positive of the album. Steve deserves success – not only blessed with a unique voice. but a drive of promoting himself that is unsurpassed by anyone. A near capacity audience had gathered from locals to far and wide.

Special guests for the evening included BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominee Ange Hardy who had contributed to the album track ‘There We Are’ and sang ‘John Ball’ – a capella duet with Steve, also fiddler Tanya Allen (‘A Heart Filled With Nothing To Do’), and Giles Newman Turner who ably assisted on harmonica on ‘Quit Blubbin in the Cheap Seats’, sadly Lukas Drinkwater was unable to attend as gigging elsewhere, but had also participated on the album.

Steve kicked off the proceedings with ‘Back to The Beginning’ off his first album – 14 Good Intentions – which was an up-tempo number getting the audience into the mood and setting the scene of what was to come. Emotions went up and down as Steve changed tempo and passion whether it be love or passion for the environment or issues which led us to ‘This Land is Pound Land’. The interval came too quickly – and so many people were talking in the bar area about how good the evening was. Steve’s lovely wife Becky was on the lights, selling CDs in the interval while supervising the bar, and generally everywhere! Totally supportive of her talented husband, Becky deserves a mention.

The second half contained tracks from both the new album and 14 Good Intentions, ranging from the amazing ‘Loving Condescension’ to ‘Beneath The Sun ‘ – I shouldn’t single out anything as every song brought its own identity with true grit.

The evening whizzed by and Steve had to come back for an encore which was Elvis Presley’s ‘If I Can Dream’. This had us all emotionally charged none the least Steve ,who could see his dreams were in reach, and he was on the rising ladder to them. We could all see that and all so very proud of him. The lad deserves it. A more gracious and caring man you couldn’t meet and it shows in his lyrics.

Both albums can be purchased from www.stevepledger.co.uk where you can also see where Steve is playing next and details of how to book him. A spring tour is being pencilled in for May/June time, so keep his website bookmarked!

Jean Camp