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:

SUNJAY – Black & Blues (own label SLCD01501)

Black & BluesIt’s a testament to the appeal of these songs that a young man such as Sunjay Brayne finds his spiritual, or at least musical, home amongst them.

Black & Blues is Sunjay’s fourth album, this one recorded completely solo in one day by Eddy Morton. Much of the material will be familiar although the energetic opener, ‘Drop Down Mama’, was new to me and I haven’t heard ‘You Don’t Learn That In School’ that often despite its history with Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole. The familiarity is part of the charm, of course. ‘Duncan & Brady’ is a classic tale of murder that never tires and ‘Pallet On The Floor’ is one of those easy-going blues songs in which the singer seems oddly content with his lot.

‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’ is another old song that enjoys periodic revivals. Big Joe Williams first laid claim to it and since then it has been recorded by everyone from The Orioles to Them and AC/DC. Sunjay takes it back to basics but he can’t resist adding a second guitar part which echoes the song’s later incarnation as a rock classic.

Sunjay is a young man with a young man’s voice yet to acquire the gruffness and world-weariness of someone who has been there, done that but could never afford the T-shirt. His dynamism and enthusiasm for the music together with his technical skill as a guitarist more than compensates.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.sunjay.tv

Sunjay’s Introducing session:

EDDY MORTON – Rainbow Man (New Mountain Music NMM 2015/2)

Rainbow ManRainbow Man is Eddy Morton’s fourth solo album since the demise of The Bushburys and it finds him cast in the role of neo-sixties troubadour. Heaven knows there is plenty of scope for sharp song writing.

The title track is resolutely American and inspired by real people. Eddy does a great accent, an amalgam of mid-West and West Midlands, and as I played the album for the first time I heard more Americanisms than are actually present. That may have something to do with ‘Emily’ which can trace its lineage back to 1965.

After ‘Rainbow Man’ come three songs that address our current situation. ‘The Battle For Stourbridge’ – where Eddy lives – is in part a tribute to the working narrow-boats that crossed the country from Liverpool to Boston. Beneath that is a song that will resonate all over the country about the fight between people who know what they want and the bureaucracy that tells them otherwise. ‘In London Town’ is a classic contrast between a “have” and a “have-not” and ‘This Is War In Any Other Name’ covers just about every other obscenity committed by this government.

It’s not all political diatribes, though. There are reflective songs on episodes of life; songs like ‘When The Circus Comes To Town’ and ‘On The Journey From The Schoolhouse’ and meditative pieces like ‘When I’m Gone’ and ‘Angels Never Cry’. Eddy’s band includes Andy Jones on fiddle and Trevor Spinks on Dobro, providing the Americana with Aidan O’Brien’s uilleann pipes used sparingly but to great effect and a guest appearance by rising star Sunjay.

This is a record to groove along with. I think Eddy has done it again.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: http://www.newmountainmusic.com/eddy-morton