This is the conclusion of my good friend Tim Bindner’s multi-CD review of the work of Blues artist, Jonny Lang.
Long Time Coming (2003) – 15 songs, 57 minutes
This album comes out swingin’ with the title track, Long Time Comin’. The song is gritty, lyrically strong, and emotionally powerful. So much, in fact, Jonny was asked to play at Eric Clapton’s Guitar Festival where he performed the piece. Jonny’s live performance of this song is just as powerful as the recording, complete with veins popping, sweat flying, and guitar flailing. One listen to his powerful, rasping, once whiskey-soaked” voice belting out the blues is enough to make any listener pause, especially when one realizes that it’s pure talent, not hard living, that makes the voice sound that way. The next track, Red Light, is one of his most popular on this album and with good reason. The song is another journey down the road of the blues. Along the way, Jonny mentions his addiction to alcohol and implies that you can stop, take a look around, or keep running through your life. Get What You Give, Beautiful One, Goodbye Letter, To Love Again, and Dying To Live are also all very good. Among the pleasant surprises included here are the raucous, roadhouse-flavored Happiness and Misery, featuring harmonica accompaniment by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, and a gritty, live reading of Stevie Wonder’s Livin’ for the City.
Turn Around (2006) – 15 songs, 55 minutes
After Jonny got clean and sober he wrote the songs for Turn Around. You can read his story on an earlier post of mine, entitled: Jonny Lang. The opening and closing tracks are both religious type organ songs. In My Love Remains, Jonny goes back to the acoustic guitar and sings soulfully of his struggles with drugs and life and how he faced his daily life during those times. “I see the fear and dark that paralyzes you. Could have lived your dreams but never followed through. Open the door and come in if you want me to. You’re not alone and I’ll be there.” Only a Man is Jonny’s heartfelt song about his personal encounter with God. It’s worth many listens. In Don’t Stop For Anything, he sings inspirational lyrics about not giving up, even though there will be struggles in life. The passionate Anything’s Possible, is a slightly funky tune that finds his searing six-string lines matching his dynamic and expressive vocals. Both are filled with brilliant and very soulful guitar playing. You can read the lyrics for yourself here. In an interview not long after the album was released, Jonny stated “[The album is about] how God turned my life around, and how I made a decision to allow God to do that.”
Live at the Ryman (2009) – 12 songs, 1.3 hours
I recently got to see the concert supporting this album at the Horseshoe Casino in Elizabeth, IN. This live CD closely mirrored the concert I saw. The CD begins with Jonny playing a very slow and touching acoustic intro for Breakin’ Me, which in my opinion, is too often interrupted by the crowd. This live version is a bit different than his studio recording, basically a longer and wonderful guitar segway into the familiar version know from his studio recording. Anyway, as he progresses into the familiar beginning of the song Jonny’s fans go crazy. What follows is nothing short of awesome. The next track is a song called A Quitter Never Wins. This song builds and builds as Jonny wails on his guitar. Trust me; this was an emotional rush at his concert. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. The final guitar jam is just amazing. The only exception was in concert this song lasted over 15 minutes and the final solo was at least 8 minutes long. Chad will be happy to demonstrate this solo in your next session. (Check out this video.) His live version of Red Light is phenomenal. Again, you get the feeling that Jonny’s guitar is plugged directly into his soul. Livin’ In The City is masterful with one of his background singers singing a moving solo, mixed in with Jonny’s voice and jamming guitar, this may rate as his best CD thus far.