Jonny Lang is as much voice as he is guitar. The puzzling thing is that he’s not better known for either — or both.
He’s really that good.
(photo courtesy of Marc D’Amour and www.marcdamour.com)
It’s all upside for Lang, though: He’s been a recording artist for exactly half his life — and he just turned 28. In all, he has five albums and a Grammy to his credit, has established himself as one of the music world’s premier blues guitar players, and has a film cameo performance with Motown legend Wilson Pickett and soul/R&B singer Eddie Floyd under his belt. He really should be more famous.
He also played with guitar great Steve Cropper on his first album and jammed with just about everyone worth jamming with — including Eric Clapton, who invited him to the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2004.
And Lang did enjoy some overdue commercial success with his latest album, the 2006 release Turn Around, which carried a track, “Anything is Possible,” that got some national airplay.
But that’s a full 11 years after he released his first album at the age of 14, when he put out the independent label album, Smokin,’ as “Kid” Jonny Lang with a lineup that included Cropper. He’s been building his audiences ever since. His first major label release was 1997’s Lie to Me, followed in 1998 with Wander this World. His fourth album, Long Time Coming, was released in 2003, leading up to Turn Around.
Still, mainstream fame has so far eluded Lang. And that’s long after major audiences got their first glimpse of him in Blues Brothers 2000, the 1998 film sequel to the Blues Brothers in which Lang performs with Pickett and Floyd. It’s a striking performance. The song, “634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.),” kicks off with the two legendary singers before Lang burst onto the scene: A skinny, long-haired 17-year-old with a booming voice and screaming licks on his Fender Telecaster. You questioned if that was really his voice.
It was. Lang’s voice is as much a featured instrument as his guitar. Fortunately, you get both for the price of one. He’s worth a listen.
(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)
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