Reviews

SunjaySunjay
Album: Black And Blues
Label: Self Published
Tracks: 10
Website: http://www.sunjay.tv

Sunjay's new album is a collection of blues standards revived in classic acoustic folk-blues style. A British singer / guitarist of Asian descent, his material draws heavily on the folk-blues tradition, and here he has concentrated exclusively on material from the US Blues-based songs. His picking style is assured and relaxed, his vocals very English or at least East Coast USA to my ear, clipped diction almost to the point of parody. Which makes this album a refreshing change from a long line of Brits struggling for the "authenticity" of the Alabama prison-gangs.

Sunjay is perhaps harking back more to the ballad / blues tradition of bar-room singers who sang of the events and urban legends of the day, than to those who fashioned songs from bitter personal experience. This certainly works on "Duncan and Brady", "Delia" and "Nobody Wants to Know You When You're Down and Out", and even "Pallet on the Floor", in part because of their familiarity - these are most assuredly "standards" which bear a huge degree of reinterpretation.

"You Don't Learn That In School" is one of those songs that straddles the line between suggestiveness and obscenity very nicely, a bit like a US George Formby which is fine if, like me, you're fond of the toothy Wigan strummer, and also contains some of the most confident soloing on the album. "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer" is less successful, perhaps because of its associations with John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed. Sunjay has dramatically changed the feel of the tune, and his polite vocal style does make you doubt on this one whether the song really suits him (at a mere 22 years-old, it's difficult to imagine him leaning on a bar and annoying an exasperated bar-keep!).

Having said which "Baby Please Don't Go" works remarkably well, Sunjay marking a very firm time with his thumb whilst having fun on the top strings. The closing "Trouble In Mind" is also very nicely played, a melancholy finale to an album that I am sure also translates very well to the stage.

That the album works so well with nothing more than guitar and voice is a tribute to the hard work Sunjay has put into the songs, and the choice of material is also (mainly) spot-on. Give it a listen if you can, and look out for Sunjay on the festival and gig circuit if a fresh twist on the classics is what you're after.

Harry Thomson