Entre Nous: reflections from somewhere between

I begin writing these words on the day after my 45th birthday, and it strikes me that if I’m allowed to stick around until I’m 90 yeas old - a proverbial ‘good innings’ by any standard - then that puts me firmly ‘somewhere between’ when it comes to my allotted time here.

In naming the new album ‘Somewhere Between’, along with the title’s relevance to the subject matter of many of the songs, this fact too was very much on my mind. And with it, the realisation that ‘between’ is pretty much where we remain for the duration of our lifetime; not only between cradle and grave, but also in regard to our convictions; relationships; experiences... ours is a life of perpetual transience. Much of the hurt and the tension that we experience, both personally and as a species, is rooted in our inability to face and accept this truth. We see The Now as something unconnected to what has passed and unrelated to what is to come, and viewed out of context, we think and we act with a very polarised perception of both ourselves and our circumstances. In the past, I have made decisions based on factors I considered to be supremely important at the time, only to later become convinced that my zealousness for those things should have been tempered by far greater principles which, in my enthusiasm, I regarded too lightly. As life has gone on, a realisation has gradually dawned that what I may now consider to be an absolute truth, I may hold onto much more lightly tomorrow, and whatever I say and do now, I need to carry out with a little thought for the person I may yet become. The victories I amass for myself today may be the regrets that I carry for all the remaining days of my life. There are truths to which I cling still, and some which I count as absolutes, but as one song on the album states:they all whisper love.”.

Neil King, FATEA Magazine
Neil King, FATEA Magazine

All of this informed the songs and helped to give shape to the album as a whole, which ultimately led up to Friday 4th November at Dunster Castle in Somerset. This was the extraordinary setting for the launch concert; an evening I had been looking forward to for much of the year, and one that proved to be a night I will never forget. Four months to the day since recording of the album began, on a chilly Autumn evening, the Main Hall filled with people; some of whom I knew and have seen and met at gigs before and others for the first time... each as welcome as the rest. I was feeling the weight of the occasion and the surroundings, but the reception they gave immediately took care of that and I ended up almost feeling guilty for enjoying the evening as much as I did!

(w Brian Player) Neil King, FATEA Magazine
(w Brian Player) Neil King, FATEA Magazine

Also there was Neil King of FATEA and Along The Tracks and as well as Brian Player of Acoustic Cafe Radio Show, both of whom can be heard on the magnificent Blues & Roots Radio of a Friday evening. Neil kindly opened the evening with a few words and Brian and I began the 2nd half with a short on-stage interview about the album before taking a few questions from the floor. (There was of course a fair amount of music throughout the evening too!) It was also lovely to have Ian Freedman of The Readifolk Radio Show there (the other Friday night UK presenter on Blues & Roots!) and we also recorded a short interview at the end of the evening which went out recently. Along with my thanks to them, I want to say how grateful I am to the National Trust for allowing us to use the spectacular setting in the first place, and particular thanks to the wonderful people who work there and who put so much effort and time into helping ensure the event was a success. So to David and Brenda Moore, Jill and everyone, my deep gratitude. You can read reviews of the evening by folking.com and FATEA by clicking on those links. Huge thanks for those lovely write-ups too!

Having played most of the songs from the album, along with a number of other originals and a cover or two, I ended the encore with a song I have come to love playing live in recent times (‘Hallelujah’), unaware as we all were that within three days the genius behind it would be passing from his Great Between. I’m so glad I decided to include it on the night.

Neil King, FATEA Magazine
Neil King, FATEA Magazine

Returning to the album itself, the reception it’s had since the advance copies went out from reviewers and radio shows alike has been all I could have asked for. I’m very grateful to a whole host of reviewers and presenters for the comments (there are a few below) and the airplay and ‘Album of the Week’ accolades it’s received. There have been plenty of opportunities too for interviews and sessions, including a chat on BBC Radio Bristol in early November which, if you’re quick, you can still catch here on BBC iPlayer. (I’m on just before 28mins in.)

The reaction in 2015 to ‘Striking Matches In The Wind’ was a wonderful shock to me and, particularly with the new album sounding quite different to ‘Matches...’, I was taking nothing at all for granted when it came to how this one would be received. So far at least, it’s all been hugely positive and the general response from reviewers and listeners alike has been even more enthusiastic than it was for the last one... which is just about as much as any artist can dare to hope for, I think.

For my part, I feel very happy with the results. Over a period of time, the songs take shape and gradually suggest how they might best be presented; ideas form about the album as a whole and what direction it should go in... who should play on it and on what tracks. Taking all of this in to the studio where new ideas suggest themselves and each element and participant’s contribution offers further ways in which to take the songs and new decisions must be made. All the way through to the final mixing and mastering stages; opportunity for change and tweaks until... that’s it. It’s done. Making an album is a long chain of choices and decisions followed by an abrupt sense of no longer having any control whatsoever; of being forced to cut ties with something you’ve probably already lost a healthy perspective on and place it in the hands of anyone who cares to listen. And it’s only at this point that one is really able to hear it; when no longer listening for potential changes to make but hearing it for the first time as something which one has no more control over than Highway 61 Revisited, Dark Side Of The Moon or anything by Black Lace.

So, putting to one side the inevitable ‘could have done that bit differently/better’ moments, I find that I’m really very happy with the end product. And this is in no small part due to the incredible people who contributed to the recording. The justifiably much-in-demand Lukas Drinkwater on bass; the beautiful playing of Tanya Allen on fiddle; the fantastic piano and organ on ‘Lefty, Wait Your Turn!’ by Nigel Neill and the addition of drums, courtesy of recording engineer and co-producer of the album, Olly Winters-Owen. As with each of the amazing musicians, Olly’s playing added much to this record, particularly as I hadn’t really gone down the full-kit route before. It all worked out just as I’d hoped it would, with much of this album sounding as it had sounded in my head before we began. That said, Olly is rightly credited with co-producing this album for suggestions made; things that maybe hadn’t occurred to me that really helped to influence the presentation of the songs. As I wrote in the liner notes accompanying the CD, their hands and hearts elevated the songs.

Neil King, FATEA Magazine
Neil King, FATEA Magazine

So, suddenly, it’s all about the future. I have a smattering of local ‘live in the bar’ gigs here in Somerset over the next few weeks which will be fun, starting in Minehead on Saturday 26th Nov. (Click here for details) Then from February, I will be out and about in support of ‘Somewhere Between’ and, hopefully, passing through your neck of the woods! Dates will be starting to appear on the Gigs page of the website soon so please do keep an eye out for those. And you can always keep up to date with things via Facebook and Twitter.

I’m looking forward to getting around the UK, including a few places I’ve not yet played in, and also heading back up to play Scotland again which I did earlier this year and very much enjoyed. If you’re interested in promoting a gig yourself or know of a venue near to you (or maybe fancy hosting a house gig!) then please drop me a line here.

I have LOVED playing the shows I’ve played this year and if you’ve made it along to any, thank you so much for doing so! The support the music has received this year has meant so very much and I hope I’ll see you again very soon. If you’ve not yet grabbed your copy of ‘Somewhere Between’ (or any other album for that matter) then you’re most welcome to drop by the Shop on the website or click here for an audio sampler of some of the tracks to get a flavour of it first - thank you!

So, thanks for taking the time to read this and I wish you well in these strangest of times. There is more material for this kind of music right now than one would wish for, and seemingly more darkness to overcome than there is hope of which to sing... so I’ll just sign off below with a few lines from the song ‘I Spat Fire’ from ‘Somewhere Between’.

May we shine all the brighter.... Steve x

Neil King, FATEA Magazine
Neil King, FATEA Magazine

The stars they shine so bright on the blackest night.... The day somehow obscures their unequaled light.... But when the sun goes down and darkness gathers ‘round.... That's when the stars they shine so bright on the blackest night.

..............................................................................

"There are album launches and there are extra special ones. The Steve Pledger 'Somewhere Between' album launch was extraordinary!" (Folking.com)

"Steve Pledger's tour-de-force. An album that casts Steve as a genuine protest singer, up there with the likes of Billy Bragg, Phil Ochs & Ewan MacColl." (FATEA Magazine)

"A cracking listen; never a dull moment... from a very fine singer/songwriter." (Frank Hennessey, BBC Radio Wales)

Songs that "uncannily voice one’s own concerns... an object lesson in the craft of contemporary songwriting." (fRoots Magazine)

“The sheer essence of what makes Steve such a special talent.” (Andy Barnes, Sonic Bandwagon)

“A beautiful new album... terrific piece of work.” (Steve Clarke, Strange Brew)

"Steve Pledger does it again! Wonderful songwriting.” (Rick Stuart, Roots & Fusion)

“Absolutely wonderful! Fantastic songs from a true wordsmith.” (Gary Hazlehurst, The Folk Show)

Posted by Steve on November 25th 2016

Loading... Updating page...