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Sunjay: Devil Came Calling

review gibb sunjay morgan deltaB x1 cong

Sunjay has been seen at award ceremonies: he was a young folk award finalist in 2012 at Radio Two and the same year won the young performers award at the Wath Festival, as well as being a winner at the New Roots competition in St Albans. In 2014 he was nominated three times at the Exposure music awards. At the 2014 British Blues awards he was nominated in the young artist category.

This is his fifth album and, given his quality and output, he should be bigger. Fame’s loss is our gain, as he played at Quigleys and the Young Pretender over the weekend for Congleton Jazz and Blues festival and we got to see him for free.

We got his third album Sunjay back in 2014 and have liked it ever since. He has released two other albums and a mis-firing album (according to critics) of Buddy Holly covers but this new one is a quality roots / blues album.

Sunjay played solo in Congleton but for this he has a band, and like the man himself, they’re all good players. Banjo player Dan Walsh, from Stafford, features. Live, he played a “joke” song about not playing Bob Dylan covers and while there are signs of a sense of humour, this is a serious album.

There are some of his own songs and a number of covers. Opener is Ghost Train, an original, a bouncy tune that’s a good opener, with nice mandolin. Sunjay is tall and has a big voice, and plays his guitar with gusto, which gives this track and all the others a certain virility. The more countrified Mean And Ugly follows, a jolly tune with some humour about it, as well as nice fiddle; the narrator is regretting being with his former belle. A stomper follows, Big Road being a cover with some nice harmonica. (It’s a Tommy Johnson song: Canned Heat took their name from one of his lyrics, and as part of his PR, he claimed to have sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for mastery of the guitar, a story more famously transferred to Robert Johnson).

Sunjay’s own compositions stand up well against the covers, especially Too Close To The Sun. The album closes in thoughtful, folky vein with cover of Lisa Mills’s The Truth.

Sunjay is a fine and fluent guitarist and this is a strong collection of songs, and well worth buying. Let’s hope he gets too big to come back to Congleton.

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