Saturday, June 22, 2024

Statesboro Blues with Sunjay

Multi-award-winning blues guitarist Sunjay’s new studio album, Black & Blues Revisited is out now on Mighty Tight Records, and he’s just issued his cover of the classic ‘Statesboro Blues’ as his latest single.

“‘Statesboro Blues’ was written by Blind Willie McTell and first recorded in 1928,” said Sunjay. “It’s country blues with a touch of gospel. This version also combines lyrics from Church Bell Blues by Luke Jordan. ‘Daddy died and left me reckless, mama died and left wild’. Having sung these lines hundreds of times before my mother passed away. It was an extremely emotional experience. I had to belt it out because I just couldn’t do it gently, the words got stuck.” 

The single is available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer and Tidal from here.

Black & Blues Revisited was produced by Sunjay with Josh Clark at Get Real Studios in Bath, UK marks a significant passage of time in the guitarist’s life. “I’d just started recording the album when my mother suddenly and tragically died,” he revealed. “There was so much to deal with, the shock was huge, and it took me a long time to recover.

“Thankfully Josh enabled us to keep the momentum going as he continued to work on various things until I could record again. Music has always been my catharsis. I’m grateful that I’m now in a much better place both personally and musically.

“My mother was born in Goa, India. She gave me my forename, Sunjay. Though always very proud of me, I think there were cultural expectations of me becoming a doctor or lawyer! My father who (is British) taught me to play guitar initially, and I inherited his love of blues music.

“Faced with these challenges I feel far closer to these songs now than I’d ever done before. Some of these songs, in fact most of them, I’ve been singing for years. However, singing them now has a whole different meaning. In the blues, references to death, the devil etc aren’t usually very far removed from real life.” 

Despite this being a follow up to 2015’s Black & Blues, the new album is apparently as much new territory for both Sunjay, as it will be for the regular Sunjay listeners, showing a growth between albums.

“When I was younger, I always got told – you need to suffer to be able to sing the blues. Well, now I have,” said Sunjay, with a wry smile. At 28 years old he seems to have the experience and wisdom of somebody much older. Though as he’s keen to point out, “That’s only because I’ve made so many mistakes…”.

The album comprises tasteful playing from drummer (and occasional bassist!) Josh Clarke (Kate Rusby), bassist Josh Jewsbury (Eve Selis), Bob Fridzema on keys (King King, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Walter Trout), and harmonica player Lee Southall (Voodoo Blue).

Tracks featured on Black & Blues Revisited are ‘Built For Comfort’, ‘Statesboro Blues’, ‘Key To The Highway’, ‘Hesitation Blues’, ‘Living With The Blues’, ‘Monday Morning Blues’, ‘Come Back Baby’, ‘Big Fat Woman’, ‘Freight Train’, ‘Dust My Broom’ and ‘The Easy Blues’.

Listening to ‘Statesboro Blues’ and ‘Living With The Blues’, we are told expect to feel raw emotion, his voice more edgy than on previous albums. There’s also a willingness to sing straight from the heart, to let the listener hear him at his most vulnerable and somehow evoke feelings of, ‘Hey, it’s ok, come and sit with me a while’. While on other tracks like Freight Train’ and Come Back Baby’ are the more familiar warm sonorous vocals that those accustomed to hearing Sunjay will find.

‘Built For Comfort’ is presented in a raunchy blues rock format, his powerhouse vocals driving as the accompanying music. There’s an extended music break in the middle showcasing guitar skills, followed by an organ/piano, call and answer, interspersed with bluesy harmonica.

Although written over 60 years ago, the song is as relevant today as it was then. Echoing the sentiments of ‘Built for comfort, I ain’t built for speed’ and ‘Ain’t got no diamonds, ain’t got no gold, what I do have baby’s gonna satisfy your soul’ it calls out the idea of valuing material possessions over true emotional fulfilment.

This new single was preceded by a couple of other singles released from the parent album. Back in July was his rendition of the Willie Dixon classic ‘Built For Comfort’ and after that came ‘The Easy Blues’.

“’The Easy Blues‘ is adapted from a Jelly Roll Morton piano piece called ‘Jelly Roll Blues’”, said Sunjay. “We recorded it live in one take, at the end of a day’s recording.

“My producer suggested a lo-fi production, just three mics to capture the performance, the same way they recorded it 100 years ago. I wanted to echo the sound and feel of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. This is the final track on the album. For me, it feels like the perfect way to end the album.” You can check out the video to ‘The Easy Blues’ right here at RAMzine, as you can ‘Built For Comfort’.

Black & Blues Revisited itself is available to order from here.

Sunjay will be touring the UK later in the year. Dates are listed below and tickets available by clicking here.

BEWDLEY, St. Georges Hall (Album Launch Show) – Oct 28
SALTBURN, Blues Club – Nov 6
BEDWORTH, Folk Club – Nov 9
KINGSWINFORD, Woodman Folk Club – Nov 11
MALVERN, St. James Church – Nov 12
SEDGEFIELD, Candlelite Live Music – Nov 15
BANBURY, Folk Club – Nov 16
WILLOUGHBY, Village Hall – Nov 19
TWICKENHAM, Folk Club – Nov 20
HAMILTON, Quarter Acoustic – Nov 22
DUNFERMLINE, Folk Club – Nov 23

Paul H Birch
Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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