On his first album in four years to include original material, mostly co-written, the Devil Came Calling declares Sunjay On His Fifth Album. Once again the signature that flows through the album is the clever and artful mixing of blues bringing the swamp and delta into folk music. This is an artist that refuses to conform to stereotypes, he dresses as a city slicker and plays the music that motivates and thrills him with pure authenticity. His vocals have an inner melancholy and the guitar stings and cajoles as he surrounds himself with a band of musicians who complement and add a myriad of tones and textures to every track. There can be no argument that he is one of the UK’s rising stars as he with perfect ease crosses the artificial divide between Blues and Folk music with his stylish and powerful performances in the studio and live. Bluesdoodles have reviewed previous alums, Sunjay and Black and Blue so it was high anticipation that we started to listen to his latest album expecting fingerpicking guitar of the highest quality, strong vocals and exciting lyrics. Were we disappointed read on to find out…
Enough background; let’s listen and consider the album starting with the opening number, with the intro that gets your feet tapping with the driving beat that has us joining the Ghost Train. Reminiscent about no heroes like used to be, this is a train taking us down the road to history. The textures are deep the tones beguiling and the lyrics so much more than a list of names. The fiddle adds a sharpness to the tale. A fabulous opening track we are now in the vibe of an artist in complete control. The tempo keeps us up with Mean & Ugly. The guitar and vocals curl around the lyrics on a lively finger-picking number with the delicious addition of Katriona Gilmore’s fiddle and Ian Jennings’ double bass. The Country folk distillation is as smooth as a quality sipping whisky. We are in the zone as we hit Big Road, as Sunjay covers Tommy Johnson’s Big Road Blues. On the third number, the tempo takes us deep into the Delta with the whispering recollections of Canned Heat On the Road Again. It is the blues-harp that makes this number sparkle and shine.
The album has a cohesive flow, easy listening with something meaningful to say as we glide into Too Close To The Sun, this is an artist on top form in the studio. The sound is electric folk with the fiddle again adding a poignant dimension with drums and guitar bringing in a swampy, determination as the instruments take your listening focus. The tempo tacks a turn the Devil is now calling with slow rhythmic blues on I Feel The Same as Sunjay returns to this number first recorded in 2007. Slow and mellow a moment to relish. As we step back into the sunshine with up-tempo King Of My Country, his voice drives the lyrics with a self-assured belief in the music he is producing as he re-shapes the number the slide-guitar is stylish leaving its mark across this number half-way through the album.
Now we have Sunjay and the band’s reinterpretation of Hans Thessink’s Johnny and the Devil; the changes are subtle the beat is sharper and this classic is welcomed on any album when played this well. The voice is given a break on Mississippi Blues. We can sit back and relish his guitar skill accompanied by his percussive foot.
Here comes, my favourite tack on a superb album, Faith Healer. The story unfurls with a medicine man and faith intertwining. This is country done so well that it has inner energy, the tempo is warming as the fiddle and acoustic guitar augment the shape of the story that a songwriter, like David Morton at the top of their game can create.
With two tracks left the tempo takes on attitude with Tell Me, a Matt Anderson number that is foot-stomping sharp guitar playing that rises the adrenalin and the backing vocals act as affirmative punctuation as his percussive foot lets in the swirling power of blues-harp. We are surrounded by mystical mists as Sunjay interprets Lisa Mills, The Truth. The backing instrumentation is stunning, fiddle, organ and double bass brings this number to life a perfect closing number for this stunning album.
Devil Came Calling declares Sunjay as he delivers eleven original songs that distil the heart of music created for and of the folk. He captures the essence of emotions that flows through the blues amalgamation that ensures Sunjay music is welcomed every time you hear it played.
NINEdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Ghost Train (David Morton, Sunjay Brain)
- Mean & Ugly (Sunjay Brain)
- Big Road (Tommy Johnson)
- Too Close To The Sun (Sunjay Brain, Les Glover, Henry Priestman)
- I Feel the Same (Chris Smither)
- King of My Own Country (David Morton)
- Johnny & the Devil (Hans Theessink)
- Mississippi Blues (Willie Brown)
- Faith Healer (David Morton)
- Tell Me (Matt Andersen)
- The Truth (Lisa Mills)
Sunjay – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar & Feet
Charlie Barker – Backing Vocals
Darren Barnes – Drums
Pete Bond – Piano
Katriona Gilmore – Backing Vocals & Fiddle
Ian Jennings – Double & Electric Bass
Eddy Morton – Backing Vocals, Electric Bass, Mandolin, Organ & Piano
Lee Southall – Harmonica
Dan Walsh – BanjoProduced by: Eddy Morton & Sunjay engineered by Eddie Morton, MArk Stuart, Theo Egginton & Sunjay Mixed by:Eddy Morton Mastered by: Rob Groucutt