Signs are Positive on Johnny Lang Latest Album
Jonny Lang, going back to his roots with an album that has a deep vein of blues timing and tempo to explore. Into this vein of rich musical treasures, he weaves in soul and the rawness of deep roots music, making sure your interest is always whetted with anticipation of what is coming next.
The first sign of this album has a fresh approach is the opening track Make It Move with the deep gospel, chain gang infused choruses. This is contemporary roots, porch step blues. We are making the move, going to the mountain rather than waiting for it to come to you; making that effort to put the first step forward as the guitar squeals demanding attention. Signs is an album replete with textures and tones have been blended, shaken and stirred into a cocktail of guitar, electrics and vocals that rasp out the lyrics
Never constrained by traditional rules of electric guitar blues, Lang re-shapes the sound as we meet snakes in the grass the power of the guitar licks build with blinding riffs full of venomous intent as funk collides with blues and a driving octane that is the signature of Jonny Lang as he meets the Snakes on track two. The power builds the drive becomes more determined and though he sings Last Man Standing you know if it is a contest of guitar playing many will fall by the wayside as Lang plays on full of grit, skill and determination that rocks.
The title track often reveals a lot about the intent of the album. The Signs are definitely clear on this title track. The guitar taking the lead it is eventful, full of activity and at times pulling blues into the cocktail of mixed up sounds. The vocals pull the mix of solo guitar and then the deep riffs that curl around the ear making the sound fizz. Bitter End, again has the feel of an urgency to throw in all the ingredients into the cocktail, often like taste the ear can only comprehend so much and simplifying the sonic onslaught makes the tone structure more memorable as you are not rushing onto the next cascade of sound.
Signs is a journey of a musician looking for a contemporary space which has not been caught like a spider in a web of a particular guitar based genre and approach. The signal that Lang is putting together his own earthy sound rooted deep in the earth of guitar creativity is emerging on this album Signs. As we head home the album slows, the frenetic pace is stilled as we have the first of a trio of tracks that have been stripped back to a more ordered structure. Bring Me Back Home, his voice is soulful full of emotional yearnings giving the lyrics the power. The energy and drive of the stomp are picked up on Wisdom. The sound is electric in its simplicity showcasing the vocal tones of Jonny’s voice combine by clear cut precise guitar. Closing out with Singing Songs is my favourite, redeeming the album making you go back and explore all the pathways Lang has taken us along on Signs. The breathlessness of the vocals fill out as the chorus picks up we will go on singing songs/ The reason why Jonny Lang continues to perform it is that the song is at the heart of Signs whether wrapped in guitar complexity or stripped down on the last few numbers.
Signs builds with an intensity at first, and it can seem confused, too busy, not sure what the sound wants to be. Then as the tracks become more familiar on every listen you unpick another cadence, sound bite the cocktail of styles now makes sense as Signs becomes the musical cocktail of choice. There is no doubt that Signs, his first album since signing with Mascot Label Group has a maturity of a young man who after two decades of success at the age of thirty-six has mixed up the genres creating a new sign post ‘Lang Sound’; get to know the new direction before deciding as there is much that is good about the direction even if the pathway at times is cluttered. Signs with it complexity grows with every listen.
Johnny Lang – Signs – Mascot Label Group
Release 25th August 2017
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN ….
- Make It Move
- Last Man Standing
- What You’re Made Of
- Bitter End
- Stronger Together
- Into The Light
- Bring Me Back Home
- Singing Songs