REVIEW: Sunjay Brayne at the Old Kings Head, Belper

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By Ed Sills

Confession time, despite seeing hundreds of folk bands over the years I have never been to an actual folk club. So it was good fortune that I rectified this situation by seeing Sunjay Brayne at the Old King’s Head in Belper.

Sunjay, at a mere 19 years of age, commanded the stage with his deft guitar skills and lyrically mature approach to song writing. As a singer-songwriter he displayed a fine knowledge of his exponents and reworked the likes of Derek Brimstone, John Tams, Randy Newman and Roger Brooks.

Clearly apparent was how shrewdly Sunjay had worked to balance his set between blues and traditional folk music. This dichotomy could be seen from the onset, with the bluesy ‘Love You like a Man’ being immediately followed up by ‘Scarlet Town’, a traditional song performed by Brimstone.

The first set closed with Brayne’s rendition of ‘Sitting on Top of the World’, during which the crowd seemed to be spellbound into silence by his stripped back fingerpicking and soft vocals.

During the intermission several of the Folk Club members performed traditional folk songs and they were well received. Rightly so, in these times when terrible acts are committed in the name of ‘Britishness’ I applaud those that keep our heritage alive. This is the actual history of our country being passed down through song and we should be proud and enthusiastic that somebody is bothering to do so.

Sunjay then began the second set with a popular number, John Martyn’s ‘Lullaby’ and followed it with ‘No Regrets’ by Tom Rush. Brayne’s rendition of Knopfler’s ‘Sailing to Philadelphia’ was a definite highlight, with his voice succinctly encapsulating those fine lyrics of exploration, trepidation and the dark undertones of the conquest of the Americas.

Closing the gig with his most recent single, a cover of Segar’s ‘The Fire Down Below’, Sunjay went full on blues and dropped some seriously raspy vocals over those big gritty lyrics. Given his reception afterwards, it seems almost inevitable we’ll be seeing the young troubadour again in the not too distant future. All in all then a great couple of sets, expect big things.