For those of you who at sometime in your life have experienced the joys and angst of dieting, you may recall just how mouthwatering good that slice of pie or piece of cheesecake looked to you. You wanted to savor every last morsel of it if only you could. Hold that thought because that is exactly the way you are going to feel when you begin to spin Jonny Lang's new CD Turn Around.
There are 13 delicious blues, neo-soul and good ol' gospel songs on this splendid album. Singer, songwriter and guitar virtuoso Jonny Lang was a childhood wonder kid. Early in his teenage years, he was sharing the stage with Buddy Guy and B.B. King. Lang's debut CD Lie To Me, which was released when he was 15, went platinum. The next year, Wander This World was released and it too went platinum. It won't be long before Turn Around joins those two albums in that stellar class.
The album in many ways chronicles the blues artist's life. Although he is only 25 years old, he has seen a lot, done a lot and changed a lot. He would tell you that he has been rescued from much. He owned the world at 15 and descended into a life of drugs and alcohol by his late teen years. It therefore makes all the more poignant songs such as "Thankful," a groovin', hip swaying gospel tune. The song will get you up off your chair, out of your concert seat and dancing where you are. "Thankful" boasts the incredible vocals of Lang and Michael McDonald. There is also a spectacular performance by the choir providing backup vocals, but the names are too numerous to mention all the gifted singers. Go check out the song credits on the CD cover because these people are worthy of you taking the time to do so.
I guarantee that you will be hooked in the first 30 seconds of the opening track "Bump In The Road." Lang possesses a soulful rasp that comes from deep within and is filled with passion. "Bump In The Road" demonstrates the R&B/blues sensibilities of a man who will dominate the blues scene for the next quarter of a century.
As you listen to the second and third tracks, you will run out of superlatives to describe what you hear. Nobody has sung soul with this much passion and energy since James Brown was at his peak in the sixties.
The title track "Turn Around" alone is worth the price of the CD. There is an extended guitar solo by Lang that ranks up there with anything you have heard from Bonnie Raiit and Eric Clapton.
"My Love Remains" is a gentle tune with a distinct southwest flavor. The song has rocked the charts all summer long. The song can best be described as poetry set to music.
"Put on that smile it’s time to face another day
Tell everybody everything’s okay.
How much longer can you play this game?
Tell me how much more can you take.
I see the broken heart you try so hard to hide
I see the tears you hold back in your eyes
I sing the song that you might realize.
You’re not alone and I’ll be there,
Like the sun that continues to shine
Just beyond the clouds in the sky
And if ever I seem to be so far away
Remember my love remains."
The melancholic "Only A Man" paints the bleak picture of what Lang's life had become before he climbed out of the miry pit of addiction. The song transcends into whispers of a better life and happier days. Throughout the tune, Sara Watkins' fiddle first paints mournful shadows and then provides peaceful overtones. The real jewel in this song, however is the duet that Lang performs with his wife Hailey. Hailey's delicate vocals join her husband's unique blend of grit and falsetto.
The 12th track "On My Feet Again" swings closer to R&B than it does straight-up blues, however Lang doesn't miss a beat. It prompts one to ask how a white guy still in his mid- twenties got blessed with such a seasoned soulful set of pipes that belie his age.
Turn Around is about a guy who turned his life around, is riding the wave and like his outstanding song says, "Anything Is Possible." The singer lets you know that it might not be easy, but you can climb that mountain and it is backed by references to Martin Luther King Jr., including a sound clip from King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
Lang's incredible riffs are supported by Jim Anton's outstanding work on bass and Drew Ramsey's licks on rhythm guitar. Honorable mention for great instrumental work on Turn Around goes to the horn section comprised of Quentin Ware (trumpet), Jim Horn (baritone sax), Barry Green (trombone) and Chris Dunn (tenor sax). Shannon Sanders' organ grooves are memorable.