Wednesday 27 November 2013


CD Review

One Night Only

To put out a live album you either have to be very big or very good. Sunjay Brayne is in the early stages of his career so that rules the first criteria out, fortunately he scores on the latter, he is that good.

What's more the recording captures Brayne's smooth voice and certainly, as much any recording can, reproduces faithfully his dexterous talent with the guitar.
Sunjay Brayne from the Black Country
Award-winning Brayne breaks the mold in a lot of ways, first he doesn't have a grizzled or smoke stained voice, he is Anglo Asian, his mother comes from New Delhi and his father from the Midlands, and he has added a touch of blue to the Black Country.
To be completely frank he looks as much like your archetypal blues singer as Jimmy Carr but like they say never a judge a book by its cover. There is also more to Brayne than blues, his skill with a guitar is wonderful to listen to and you know from this point, as his career grows, he is only going to get better. What's more his versatile voice, which often sounds like the late great Jake Thackray, is so clear and precise it's almost cut glass.
Right from the opening track, Love You Like A Man, you will either be shaking your head from side to side and stomping your feet or you really don't get the blues at all.
Brayne is an unassuming character but for someone who is only 20 his mature presence and confidence on stage is really impressive.
The switch on the second track to the more jaunty folk/acoustic sound of Scarlett Town will reinforce the association with Thackray.
His playing is precise and comes across so on Street Riot, which is almost onomatopoeic in the rhythm as the words travel along "run run before the hounds come". Strangely enough, and quite playfully, he finishes off this track with a Camberwick Green-style melody where you can almost see Windy Miller coming up out of that music box as Brayne picks away at his guitar.
Definitely among the best tracks on the album is Can't Shake These Blues, from the opening bars you are hooked and Brayne's silky voice is just so easy on the ear without being bland. The album is a recording of two sets Brayne did at the Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford, Dudley in the West Midlands which has seen some great names pass through its doors over the years.
His soft and easy version of Paul Anka's It Doesn't Matter Any More is really just a musical treat on the album, a bit like the strawberry on the top of a cake. This is followed by Don't Breathe A Word which is probably the weakest track of the "first half" but even at that it's still a pleasure to listen to because Brayne just has one of those voices which you enjoy.
Brayne who was born in Derby but moved to the Black Country with his parents at an early age has been playing guitar since he was four and those 16 years of playing is what shows in his maturity of sound which far outstrips his youthfulness.
The final track of the half is Fire Down Below which is the single from the album. It's an excellent track but there is just something about it which makes you feel like he should whack it up even more and give it just that bit more oomph or as they say in the Black Country, gee it sum 'ommer.
Sunjay Brayne's live album
Opening the second half with Statesboro Blues from the legend Blind Willie McTell Brayne takes it up another notch and you hear how at home he is playing the blues.
Sittin' On Top of the World is just a gorgeous track with Brayne's caramel voice at its best and even the fret noises from his finger movements add something to the track. It also has those great lines "if you didn't like my peaches, why'd you shake my tree, you get out of my orchard and let my peaches be" .
Brayne was hit recently with some bad luck. On the release gig of One Night Only he was suffering with throat problems and was all geared up to support Steeleye Span on their Wintersmith tour but he developed full blown laryngitis which thankfully he is now recovering from. But to temper the bad news he is on the bill at next year's Shrewsbury Folk Festival which has an impressive list including headliners Bellowhead.
There really isn't a bad track on this album and Seems So Real sounds so authentic he could be sitting on a porch with his guitar in the Delta region with the sun bearing down and crickets chirruping in the background.
With the Devil May Ride once again you can almost hear Thackray in the background egging him on and for anyone who has never listened to Jake then you won't know how much of a compliment it is to be compared with him.
Mark Knopfler's Sailing To Philadelphia is a somewhat strange addition to this album, it's obviously a favourite of Brayne's but he doesn't quite pull it off and there is something not quite convincing about his rendition of the ballad, it seems somehow like the tempo is never quite right.
He is soon back on track though, pun intended, with Help Me Now. It's a foot-tappin', finger-pickin', heel-stompin', head-bobbin', slick song which suits Brayne's style of singing and playing like a glove.
The last track One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer is a perfect example of how Brayne has broken the mould it should really be sung by someone who sounds somewhere between Tom Waits and Howling Wolf and he sounds like neither but he manages to pull it off.
If this album was a stick of rock then written right through the middle of it would be talent, buy it, you won't regret it.

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Twitter @sunjaybrayne

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