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Steve Pilgrim’s 'Beautiful Blue' is moving and terrific

The sixth album by the singer-songwriter and Liverpool native is a career high point.
Steve Pilgrim -- Beautiful Blue album cover art

Muddy Leaf Records (CD, LP)

By John Curley

Steve Pilgrim is best known as the drummer in Paul Weller’s touring band. But he is an accomplished singer-songwriter as well. Beautiful Blue is Pilgrim’s sixth album, and it is a solid piece of work. Weller produced the album at his Black Barn Studios in Surrey, England. He also co-wrote five of the album’s 12 tracks and appears on nine of the tracks. Hannah Peel did the string arrangements.

The album starts off with the strong “New Sky.” Pilgrim accompanies himself on acoustic guitar, as he does throughout the album, and also drums on the track. Weller adds additional acoustic guitar as well as keyboards and piano, and Rachel Jean Harris provides the chorale-like backing vocal.

The album’s single “Lifeboat” is a wonderful song in which Pilgrim pays homage to his partner with lyrics such as “When darkest seas / Kick all the life out of me / You hold the ropes and map out our hopes / You pull me back, out of the black.” It’s got a good vocal by Pilgrim and excellent work by a four-piece string section.

The album’s title track benefits greatly from the understated string accompaniment and the guitar work of Steve Cradock of Ocean Colour Scene, who is also a member of Weller’s touring band. “Test of Faith” is a truly beautiful song about being put through trials and tribulations but coming out stronger in the end. “Bread and Honey” is quite nice and includes some good work by Ian Watson on accordion. “Whistle in the Wind” features a good lead vocal by Pilgrim with a perfect backing vocal by Harris and a terrific performance by the strings.

Steve Pilgrim (Photo: ©Robin-Clewley)

Steve Pilgrim (Photo: ©Robin-Clewley)

“Don’t Let The Mirror Break You” is about not letting obstacles in life trip you up. Pilgrim, Weller, Harris and Steve Trigg on flugel horn all do stellar work on the track. The strings in the instrumental break of “One With All” are quite beautiful and make the song shimmer. “Universe” is an uplifting song about working with your partner to build a life that is satisfying and meaningful.

In “Olive,” Pilgrim revisits a theme prevalent in the album about finding the inner strength to get where you need to be as he sings “the courage inside pushes you along.” Weller adds some nice harmonica to the track in the instrumental break. Pilgrim and Weller team for the elegy “Where Our Love Goes,” a song that builds in power as it progresses.

The album closes with the love song “Everyday” on which Pilgrim sings of his beloved: “So won’t you be my wife / Won’t you be my queen / Be my solid ground / My peaceful and serene.” It features some impressive finger picking on guitar by Pilgrim.

Pilgrim performed 10 of the album’s 12 songs as part of his very memorable show at London’s Union Chapel on Thursday, September 1st. Weller was part of Pilgrim’s band at that show, on keyboards and guitar, as was woodwinds wizard Jacko Peake. I had the privilege to attend the show. The chapel’s acoustics gave the music a grand majesty that was fantastic. The crowd was very enthusiastic throughout the show, creating a great atmosphere. As terrific as the songs are on the album, the live element added a magic touch to them.

The music video for “Lifeboat” can be seen below: