Sunday 24 February 2013


Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club

For such a young performer Derby-born Sunjay Brayne shows real confidence, maturity and ease on stage that it seems like he has been doing nothing else all of his life.

Sunjay Brayne at the
Newhampton Folk Club, Wolverhampton
Looking like a very young Jake Thackray he opened with Love You like a Man, which is the first track on his Seems So Real album. 
The teenage singer, who was brought up in the West Midlands, has recently been signed up by Jacey Bedford.
In the upper room at the Wolverhampton pub he sat with his stomp board and showed his guitar picking skills right from the off with the 12-bar blues song, although the jury is out on whether his voice is gritty or urban enough to carry off such heavy blues numbers. 
Sunjay then pulled out a Derek Brimstone track, Goodbye Liza Jane which had a much lighter tone and was perfect for his clear voice and clearly displayed his impressive guitar picking.
There was more than a touch of the Ralph McTell about Three Way Love Affair, a blues song which was executed in very much a busker style. Sunjay's skill with a guitar is extremely impressive and is sure to only improve with age. A perfect example of how comfortable he is with his instrument was shown with Street Riot which somehow had the feel of a Chris De Burgh song to start with. His playing matched almost onomatopoetically with his singing and following the fast-paced song he tailed it off with a gentle John Williams-style instrumental. The Radio2 Young Folk Singer of the Year nominee went back in time to put a new spin on legendary US songwriter Stephen Foster's Old Kentucky Home to which he gave an upbeat makeover and then came with a nice touch of an A Capella finish with his stomp board keeping time. 
Sunjay, in between easily dealing with numerous friendly heckles, pulled out the first of two Mark Knopfler songs, Golden Heart was a gentle ballad which was followed by The Devil May Ride, a much beefier sounding blues rift and showed he was really getting into his stride. 
The eponymous album track Seems So Real is a travelling blues tune, with a heavier beat and somehow he managed to make it sound almost like a Native American Indian offering mixed with old style blues that had a feel more like steel guitar than acoustic. 
Going back in time again to the 1920s, came Sitting On Top of the World, an emotive, soft ballad which although it had a melancholic air to it somehow didn't feel like a sad song. He moved into a heavier, grittier blues sound with Turn Your Lamp Down Low but his voice was too soft and lacked the edginess and smoking quality for such a deep track. 
Showing more versatility with A Fairy-tale Lullaby, he moved towards sounding like Thackray and for some reason while listening to it the refrain of Puff the Magic Dragon seemed to keep creeping into the imagination. 
Paying homage to one of his influences, Buddy Holly, his acoustic version of It Doesn't Matter Anymore was a real crowd-pleaser and again showed his versatility in being able to adapt tunes to his own style. This moved easily into Don't It Always Make You Cry, a new song co-written by him which has a Streets of London feel about it and his soft melodious voice made it a pleasure to listen to. 
This changed to slow hand blues for a torch song It Hurts Me Too which was followed by the second Knopfler song Sailing To Philadelphia. This again had the feeling of Thackray but the song was somewhat disturbed by the unnecessary use of the stomp board which intruded on the ballad. 
Perhaps the slickest number of the night was Can't Do It Alone which perfectly showed off Sunjay's guitar skills and included some really impressive chord changes. 
For an encore Sunjay offered the "token happy song" which was Bob Seeger's rock 'n' roll blues number Fire Down Below. Even allowing for the fact Sunjay's voice was battling infection there are some tunes he just can't carry off and this was one of them because he doesn't really have the raucous sound for this type of song. 
This said all in all it was a consummately professional and confident show and if he didn't win the Young Folk Singer award then it can only be assumed those who beat him must have been supremely talented.

Pete Shirley

The support act at the Newhampton, Staffordshire singer/songwriter Pete Shirley, was a pretty relaxed performer with an friendly manner that puts his audience at ease. He opened his set with On St Swithin's Day which was a traditional soft, acoustic  folk ballad. This was followed by Waiting for the Tide to Turn adding a gravelly sound to his voice for this song which told the tale of the changing fortunes of life and was very easy on the ear with simple chord play.
Peter Shirley supporting at the
Newhampton Folk Club
The First World War was the subject of his next offering, All Down The Line. It had a much stronger and faster running beat and he managed to sound almost like a male version of Joan Baez and it seemed as if he was holding back, leading you to suspect there was a lot more power there waiting to be unleashed.
For Beaver Down Road he switched to the bouzouki for another upbeat song which again was a traditional folk offering that had more than a hint of Guthrie about it especially as the song was about hard times. 
For his final offering Greasy Greens this was very much in a playful vein and again could easily have been a Guthrie song blown in from the US dustbowls of the 20s and 30s. 

All pictures copyright of Danny Farragher

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