by Holley Dey and Louise Uznanski
Not sure that talking is really necessary. A few bars delivered in that soft rasp and layered over fingerstyle guitar might be just enough. Why not give her a few lines of “Christabel”, the song that admits his natural shyness around girls. When Chicago born Shun Ng described his teenage years to us, he confessed to frequent visits to the local Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop. Sweet tooth? Well, yes and no…the girls behind the counter were always so pretty…but as Shun explained, “I’m not that cool talking to pretty girls.”
Last week at Rockwood Music Hall, Shun let his music do the talking. In his first New York City show, the twenty-three year old guitar phenom played to a full house. The forty minute solo acoustic set included several selections from 2012 album Funky Thumb Stuff before concluding with a medley of cover songs that Shun offered as a “tribute to my heroes”. The Beatles (Come Together), Stevie Wonder (Living for the City), Jimi Hendrix (Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire) and Michael Jackson (Billie Jean) were woven into an energetic performance that required the singer-songwriter to act as vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. He played guitar, bass and percussion simultaneously, deftly plucking the guitar strings with his right hand while fingering the fretboard with his left, and reinforcing the beat with his feet and the heel of his hand during a nearly ten minute finale that left an appreciative crowd cheering.
The influence of his idols was clear in his original music, acoustic rock inspired by the blues and styled with a clear jazz underpinning. He sang with energy, often in a staccato voice,occasionally using his lips and throat as yet another instrument of percussion. There was grit in his sound, enough to lend character. I found Shun’s vocals most effective when the tempo slowed and the mood temporarily relaxed. Love song “All Over Again”, for example, was gently delivered with subtle expression that contrasted nicely with the intricacy of his guitar work.
That innovative guitar play, startling in its speed and skill, has won the artist invitations to international festivals and notice from some of the music industry’s biggest names. In another week Shun will head to Los Angeles to meet with one of those names; after seeing Ng’s newest music video , producer Quincy Jones picked up the telephone. YouTube almost, but not quite, captures the passion and intensity of the musician’s live performance. Watch official music video “Get On with It” and concert video of “Christabel” below for an introduction to a young singer-songwriter and musician with passion, stunning talent and potential.
Live capture of Shun Ng’s performance of original tune “Christabel” at Rockwood Music Hall
Gallery of photographs from Shun Ng’s Rockwood Music Hall show: