By Andy Fawthrop
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Continuing to pursue my recent policy of getting out of The Vize, especially in the earlier parts of the week (when there’s not so much going on musically in town), and to explore the outer regions of the known Wiltshire Universe, it was time to bite the bullet and rock up in ye olde market towne of Corsham, specifically at The Royal Oak in The High Street, for Acoustic Oak. This is a club that operates every Thursday night at 8pm, mostly running open mic nights for anyone who feels like turning up. The clue is in the title –pretty well anything acoustic goes. This means folk, blues, singer/ songwriter, poetry, whatever. The first Thursday in the month is usually a “plugged-in” night, where it’s OK to turn up with a personal amp if you think you need one.
This Thursday, however, was a bit different. It was guest night, and we went to check out the hugely talented Sunjay. This 25-year-old already has a wealth of experience under his belt, having picked up his first guitar at age 4, and never having seriously put it down since. He’s been playing gigs, festivals and tours for the past few years. In 2017 he played Chippenham Folk Festival, and in 2018 at the Devizes Festival of Winter Ales. Perhaps more significantly he spent the first three months of 2017 playing the lead role in a national tour of Buddy Holly & The Crickets. In his own words he got the part “not because I could sing a bit and play a bit, but because I was tall & skinny and wore glasses”. Nothing could be further from the truth – he got the part because he’s bloody good! And he can still knock out just about any Buddy Holly number you care to mention at the drop of a hat. “Rave On” was tonight’s audience choice. To seal those Buddy performances he released an album entitled “Sunjay Sings Buddy” in late 2017.
Having played Acoustic Oak last year, this was a welcome return visit. And he was rewarded with a packed house, who absolutely loved what they saw and heard. To put it in a nutshell, Sunjay is a really good singer – but he’s also a phenomenally good guitar player. I saw two or three guitarists I knew in the audience, each of whom is pretty good in their own right, and these guys were watching Sunjay’s fingers with their mouths dropping open. Using no PA, just the power of his voice, his playing style, and a two-foot square of MDF for percussion, Sunjay took acoustic presentation to a new level. This guy is nothing if not versatile. Mixing tradition-steeped blues numbers, with modern pop and his own self-penned ballads, he kept the audience enthralled through two good hour-long sets. Veering from quiet, gentle blues and love songs, through to loud and fast, this guy really knows how to mix it up and how to truly entertain. Loads of textures and styles. And the whole was stitched together with audience participation, great personal stories, self-deprecating wit and a good line in jokes. A huge and well-deserved encore was a foregone conclusion, and I’m sure there would have been calls for yet more if we hadn’t been in danger of being kicked out of the pub. Great night and superb entertainment.
Sunjay’s tour continues through to the end of June, but unfortunately nowhere else nearby to D-Town. I’m sure he’ll be back though – he’s just too good not to. Or catch his great album “Black and Blues” from 2015 – you won’t be disappointed.
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