Most people know Jonny Lang as a blues man, or perhaps as “that kid that plays blues.” Well, the “kid” is no more. Jonny Lang has grown into a young man with a mature sense of melody, soul, rhythm .....and blues.
Lang was signed to his first major label record deal when he was only fifteen. He cut Lie To Me with A&M and it established the fan base that still follows him to this day. Now a 32-year old man, Lang’s music has evolved and matured right along with him.
Fight For My Soul is the first album of studio material in seven years, and Lang’s first since his split from A&M. And, from the dynamic sound of this thing, Lang was very busy crafting these songs for the past seven years. This is the best of the Jonny Lang catalog, and I’m quite sure that sales numbers and chart success will reflect that sentiment once the world gets hold of these songs.
Oddly, Lang has almost entirely abandoned the blues that established him early in his career. Instead, this material is heavily influenced with soul and R&B flavors. I hear sounds similar to Prince, Terence Trent D’Arby, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, and classic Stevie Wonder. Lang’s guitar is still a presence here, but it’s his voice and songwriting prowess that really take control. The gritty blues vocal style has grown into a more versatile soul tone, and the songs are written perfectly to accommodate it.
Photo courtesy of Piper Ferguson
Let me start by telling you that the first eight tracks are all worthy of being hit singles. Lang saves the last three track positions for the more sensitive, more message-laden songs. “All Of A Sudden,” “Seasons,” and “I’ll Always Be” are decent songs, but they are clearly a “cooling down” period that is more lyrical in nature. “I’ll Always Be,” with its string arrangement and emotional guitar solo, might be Lang’s most adventurous work to date. But, the meat and potatoes of this record are in the first eight tracks. Starting from the rocking “Blew Up (The House),” these songs are all instantly likable. With the best written hooks he’s ever had, it would really surprise me if he didn’t get hits with “Breakin’ In,” “We Are The Same,” “Fight For My Soul” and “River.” The latter is filled with strong gospel influences, and a retro Motown sound. “We Are The Same” has a hard rock punch similar to Maroon 5’s “Harder To Breathe,” and it’s a personal favorite. “Breakin’ In” is a song that sticks to the roof of your mouth; you won’t be able to shake it for days once you get a taste. It’s got great funk rock melody and a gigantic hook. The title cut is more of a mood piece, with socially conscious lyrics and a Prince-like vocal. This is where you really feel like Lang’s vocals have come full circle. The build up in this song is excellent, and Lang’s voice matches the intensity perfectly.
“The Truth” is probably the song that features the guitar more than any other. It’s a big, grandiose ballad which is well written, with poignant guitar tones, and Lang doing his best Joe Cocker impression.”What You’re Looking For” is the song most set in the Bruno Mars style. It’s a smooth, melodic rock song with nice backup vocals and another enormous hook. “Not Right” is a song that encompasses all of the above. It’s got the Prince vocal, the Bruno Mars savvy, the excellent melodies, and of course, the huge hook.
My favorite Jonny Lang album before this was Turn Around. I thought he put all of his best elements into those songs. Lang has done the same thing here, except he’s gained even more weapons since that time. His voice is more versatile than ever, and his songwriting is twice what it was for Turn Around. With that said, I have no problem going on record calling this one of the best records of 2013, and it’ll be a damn shame if he doesn’t get at least one chart-topper out of this one.
You can visit Jonny Lang on the web at: http://www.jonnylang.com/
For my Jonny Lang concert review, including exclusive photos from the show, click here.