SUNJAY – Devil Came Calling (own label SLCD201901)

Devil Came CallingSunjay has now released five albums and really should be a star but the blues is “genre” music and that’s unlikely to happen yet awhile. After the side-step of Sunjay Sings Buddy he has returned to the roots of his music with Devil Came Calling and if that title suggests a song to you, well you’re absolutely right. Sunjay has a fine band with him, the key member of which is Eddy Morton, co-producer, multi-instrumentalist and writer or co-writer – despite an unconvincing attempt to disguise himself in the latter role. Darren Barnes drums, Ian Jennings plays bass, Pete Bond plays piano and Katriona Gilmore sings and fiddles. Dan Walsh turns up on one track and when you can recruit musicians of this calibre you know you’re on the map.

There are two old blues numbers, several original songs and a number of covers from artists that only the cognoscenti will know. The album opens with the single, ‘Ghost Train’, a catalogue of long gone American heroes which rocks along brilliantly. That’s followed by ‘Mean & Ugly’. I can’t believe that Sunjay expects us to take this seriously so I guess it’s a sort of cross-threaded love song. It’s fun, anyway. Tommy Johnson’s delta blues ‘Big Road’ is the first of the old songs featuring a brilliant drum and bass backing by Darren and Eddy topped off with Lee Southall’s harmonica.

Chris Smither’s ‘I Feel The Same’ slows things down a bit and is the first of the external covers. The devil came calling in Hans Theessink’s ‘Johnny & The Devil’, the old familiar story with almost a happy ending – Johnny doesn’t escape Old Nick’s clutches but he’s still playing somewhere down there. Matt Anderson’s ‘Tell Me’ and Lisa Mills’ ‘The Truth’ round out the record – I hadn’t come across Mills before but this is a knockout song to finish with.

Devil Came Calling is a fine album and essential road music for the summer – if we ever get one.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.sunjay.tv

‘Ghost Train’ – official video:

Sunjay announces new album

Sunjay

This month sees Sunjay release a brand new album, Devil Came Calling, his first to include original material in four years. The new record showcases Sunjay’s trademark blues with a modern day twist. Recorded near his hometown, Stourbridge in the West Midlands, Devil Came Calling features longtime producer and multi-instrumentalist Eddy Morton, drummer Darren Barnes, bassist Ian Jennings (Tom Jones, Van Morrison, Jeff Beck), Pete Bond playing piano and Lee Southall on harmonica. Special guests include fiddler Katriona Gilmore (Gilmore & Roberts, Albion Band), Dan Walsh (Urban Folk Quartet) on banjo and Charlie Barker singing backing vocals.

Sunjay is pretty much the antithesis of your typical denim clad dishevelled folk and blues musician. From his perfectly groomed hair to his spotlessly shining winkle picker boots he walks onto the stage every inch the “city slicker”. When Sunjay starts to sing and play the guitar however, you are transported to a world where blues and country music meld seamlessly amidst humid mangrove swamps and red neck barbecues. Sunjay is, without doubt, the real deal.

Drawing from a rich, musical and cultural background it is hardly surprising that Sunjay has quickly become recognised as one of the UK’s rising stars. His performances have been described as “mature & confident”, while his guitar playing has been hailed as “superb, brilliant, experienced, intricate & faultless”. Sunjay’s style has that natural drift between folk and blues and both camps have spotted his obvious flair. There have been a clutch of award nominations, including winning the Wath Festival Young Performers Award. He also made the final selection for the BBC’s Young Folk Award in 2012, had three nominations at the Exposure Music Awards 2014 and was also recognised by the 2014 British Blues Awards.

Sunjay has in every sense, grown up in public, having performed regularly to ever increasing audiences from the age of seven. Now, still only in his mid-twenties, Sunjay has become a master guitarist, who has crafted his show to perfection. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of his music, and a wicked sense of humour. An evening with Sunjay is an evening of exquisite blues, country and folk music combined with a master class in guitar playing interspersed with hilarious anecdotes.

Artist’s website: https://www.sunjay.tv/

‘Ghost Train’ – official video:

DAN WALSH – Trio (Rooksmere Records RRCD118)

TrioI’ve always liked Dan Walsh ever since his debut album, Tomorrow’s Still To Come. It was perhaps unpolished by modern standards but the potential shone through every note. Sadly, I was disappointed by his previous album, Verging On The Perpendicular, but I’ve always thought that Dan was at his best with someone to spark off. At first it was Will Pound, then the UFQ and his partnership with Alistair Anderson was something to be seen and marvelled at. Now his trio with Ciaran Algar and Nic Zuppardi have committed themselves to record and, for me, everything is back on track.

All the material is Dan’s except for the closing ‘Sleep With One Eye Open’ by Lester Flatt. We’re told that it’s a bluegrass classic but it seems oddly hard-bitten.  The opener is ‘Late Night Drive’, a real knees-up with Algar’s fiddle and Zuppardi’s mandolin sharing the second lines. Next is the first song, ‘Life On The Ground’, about homelessness and inspired by a lady Dan met on the street. It holds a political message if you listen carefully. ’80 Years Of Pleasant Half Hours’ is a funky tune which lets Ciaran stretch out a bit and ‘Same Time Different Place’ was inspired by a street cleaner in Stafford.

‘Dizzy Heights’ is a real show-stopper, allowing the chaps to explore their jazz leanings and giving Nic a chance to show off, although there are chances to do that a-plenty throughout the record. Dan gets really country on the next song, ‘The Light Of Day’, and reflects on the life of a touring musician on ‘When I’m Back Around’. It’s a familiar theme but done very well in this song. Two more instrumental sets bring us to the Lester Flatt closer. If I were to be critical I might say that it’s an odd note to finish on but it’s such a good song and it’s great to hear Dan, Ciaran and Nic firing on all cylinders.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: https://www.danwalshbanjo.co.uk/

‘Late Night Drive’ – live:

Urban Folk Quartet – new album

Urban Folk Quartet Live III

Reflecting their reputation as a forceful and electric live act, The Urban Folk Quartet return with an extended tour and new live album.

As the title suggests, The Urban Folk Quartet: Live III is The UFQ’s third live album, and follows the previously released Live (2011) and Live II (2013).

Recorded in concert during their spring 2015/ 2016 tour – at venues in Chester (Alexander’s), Maldon (Town Hall), Stafford (Gatehouse Theatre), and Bristol (Folk House) – the nine tracks see the quartet revisiting material from 2014 studio album, The Escape, and road-testing new tunes.

A perfect showcase for the four-piece’s breath-taking musicianship, Live III embraces their full scope, from the full-on ‘Upward Spiral’, to quieter ‘Resiste’ and ‘The Language Barrier’.

New tracks (pencilled in for their 2018 studio album) underline the quartet’s quizzical restlessness and globe-spanning sense of adventure: inspired by a trip to India. ‘Whiplash Reel’ transports a classical Indian scale into a Celtic setting, while the grooving ‘Long Time Traveller’ presents a distinctly UFQ take on a song adapted from famed American 19th century tunebook, The Sacred Harp.

In the concert environment, tunes familiar from ‘The Escape’ (which featured in several prominent ‘best of 2015’ lists) take on a newfound power and direction, as The UFQ feed off the crowds’ enthusiasm and energy, extending and transforming their growing catalogue.

“The pieces are arranged to deliberately get the audience going, with improvised passages that respond to the audience’s reaction, the vibe,” explains fiddle-player Joe Broughton. “That’s the whole reason we like to do live albums. In ‘Control Zed’, Tom does a phenomenal percussion solo – it’s those special moments of interaction where we use the energy from the crowd …”

While other bands may use the live album format to fulfil contractual obligations or as a filler, the prolific UFQ see their in-concert releases as an integral part of their creative process – hence their plan to follow each studio album with a live counterpart (something which their growing international fan-base have now come to expect).

The UFQ’s sixth album over-all, Live III, however, takes a different approach to its predecessors, I and II.

“Our previous live albums have very much been presented as one night”, says percussionist Tom Chapman. “Even though Live II was recorded at two gigs, when you listen to it it’s easy to hear it as one gig. Live III is very definitely an album collected over months, with varied rooms and audiences giving the album its unique dynamic drive.”

The release arrives at a time of increased UFQ activity. 2016 saw the band perform a series of jaw-dropping sets at various UK and international festivals, including Green Man, Towersey, Cropready, Shrewsbury, Ringsted in Denmark, and Lakeland Festival, in Erlach, Switzerland. They were also personally invited by singer Joss Stone to appear at children’s charity Barnardo’s 150th anniversary concert at London’s The Roundhouse.

The Urban Folk Quartet have been dazzling audiences with their brand of ‘electrifying acoustic music’ since 2009. Galician fiddle player Paloma Trigás has shared stages and recorded with the likes of The Chieftains, Sharon Shannon and Altan, and toured the stadiums of the world with Spain’s biggest folk star, Carlos Nuñez. Long established on the folk scene as a fiery English fiddler and showman, Joe Broughton (Albion Band), is also an exceptional guitarist and mandolin player. Dan Walsh is regarded as one of the finest banjo players in the country, as well as being a gifted singer and guitarist, while percussionist Tom Chapman is widely considered to be the most accomplished and innovative cajón player the UK has to offer.

Artists’ website: http://www.theufq.com/

‘The Language Barrier’ live:

Welcome To The Folkies

With Oscar fever rising to a climax it’s time to say “Welcome To The Folkies” – the 2016 Folking Awards. We’ve sifted through the albums and performances of 2015 – always a long and difficult task punctuated by bouts of thumb-wrestling to settle disputes. Adopting the pattern followed by everyone else, here, in no order of precedence, are our nominations. With the exception of one category we have restricted our choices to British acts.

All nominations are 2016 Folking Awards winners.

Welcome To The Folkies

Soloist Of The Year

Steve Tilston
Sam Carter
Kathryn Roberts
Steve Knightley
Ange Hardy

Best Duo

Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin
India Electric Co.
Show Of Hands
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
Clype

Best Band

Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarrr
False Lights
Merry Hell

Best Live Act

The Demon Barbers XL
Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarr
CC Smugglers

Best Album

Layers Of Ages – Peter Knight’s Gigspanner
Head Heart Hand – Megan Henwood
The Girl I Left Behind Me – India Electric Co.
It’s Not Your Gold Shall Me Entice – Elle Osborne
Disco At The Tavern – The Demon Barbers

Best Musician

Dan Walsh
Peter Knight
P.J. Wright
Chris Leslie
Kris Drever

Folking’s Rising Star

Will Varley
Sam Kelly
Wes Finch
India Electric Co.
Chris Cleverley

Best International Artist

Gretchen Peters
Tom Russell
Gandalf Murphy And The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams
Justin Townes Earle
Los Lobos

To give the awards a further edge, we opened the vote to our visitors and run a public poll in all of the 8 categories (as listed above).

The Public Vote closed Sunday 28 February at 20.00 hours and “The Folking Winners” have now been announced here at: http://folking.com/the-folking-winners/


If you would like to consider ordering a copy of an album for any of our award winners (in CD or Vinyl), download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected songs (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above.

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Dan Walsh: new album – Incidents & Accidents

Released March 16th on Rooksmere Records

Photograph by Sean Elliot
Photograph by Sean Elliot

Incidents & Accidents is the highly anticipated follow up to Dan Walsh’s critically acclaimed Same But Different album release. On the new album we get to hear Dan in a more stripped back format with just a few guest appearances from Patsy Reid (fiddle), Nic Zuppardi (mandolin), Mark Hutchinson (percussion/vocals) and Canadian singer Meaghan Blanchard. The album was also produced by Mark Hutchinson at his Rooksmere Studios, known for producing albums by Blair Dunlop, Fabian Holland and of course Walsh & Pound. There are seven songs and four instrumentals. The song lyrics are a major focus on this album but there is still plenty of Dan’s signature fast and furious banjo playing to keep the fans happy. Of the livelier songs ‘Time To Stay’ tells of Dan’s mixed emotions of moving back to his home town of Stafford after six years living in Newcastle upon Tyne along with the bluegrass inspired ‘Lost Rambler’, showing his love of the mountain music minor tunings. Of the slower songs, the contemplative ‘Dancing In The Wind’ and ‘The Song Always Stays’ are perfect examples, the former telling of a moving moment on a family holiday in Ireland and the latter relates to Dan and Nic Zuppardi’s experience of playing a gig to Scottish singer Glen Mason in a Surrey care home and rekindling his love of singing and performing in his twilight years. Dan originally started playing banjo due to his love of Scottish and Irish jigs and reels and the aptly named ‘The Tune Set’ contains four tunes from a slow air building right up to a fast and furious reel with names inspired from touring from the Isle of Barra to New Zealand. To complete the musical world tour, ‘Whiplash Reel’ displays Dan’s new found passion for Indian classical music.

Touted as one of the finest banjo players in the UK as well as being a superb singer, songwriter and guitarist, Dan Walsh is described as ‘The real deal’ in UNCUT magazine. To date he has released two critically acclaimed solo albums and has toured the world including visits to Canada, Norway, Germany, India and New Zealand and of course has played solo at venues and festivals across the UK. Having made his name with the duo Walsh and Pound and now a member of the award winning Urban Folk Quartet, as well as guest appearances on stage and on record with the Levellers and Seth Lakeman, this unique and eclectic musician continues to stun audiences across the world.

His eclectic and innovative approach has led to many exciting collaborations alongside his solo work and the UFQ, including tours with Northeast concertina legend Alistair Anderson and with sensational Indian sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan as well as Canadian country singer Meaghan Blanchard.

‘The real deal, a demon picker’UNCUT
‘Incredibly gifted, you must see him’ BBC RADIO 2
‘Eclectically inspired and consistently brilliant’fRoots

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

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‘Time To Stay’ from Incidents & Accidents: