Grammy Award winning artist, Jonny Lang, is back with his new album, ‘Signs’. If you aren’t familiar with Jonny, you are definitely missing out. He is a Blues, Gospel and rock guitarist, songwriter and singer. There is nothing this man can’t do. He brings in so many influences and crafts them into heartfelt and moving songs that are either blues or straight up rock & roll and when he mixes the two together, watch out!!
I remember when his first album came out in 1997, ‘Lie to Me’, and he was only 16 years old. I heard that album and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. No 16 year old should be able to pull off what this kid could do. Years went by and he struggled with substance abuse and in 2000 came clean. He found Christianity after shunning it for so long and it changed his perspective on everything. His writing, playing and vocals started hitting on all cylinders. He won a Grammy in 2006 for his album ‘Turn Around’ and he kept putting out incredible music.
Now in 2017, can he still produce albums that strike a chord with you after 20 years in the business? Oh yes he can. Jonny Lang has released what could possibly be the album of the year for me. His vocals, songwriting and guitar playing (damn can he play a guitar) are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Sit back and let me walk you through this masterpiece.
The album opens with “Make It Move” which is a foot stomping, dirty Blues track. The song feels like a train is running right over you. The gritty, blues vocals show a maturity and a sound of man who has been through a whole lot and is pouring out his feelings. The song delivers an opening punch that makes you hold on to see what he is going to bring you next.
And to not be out done, “Snakes” continues with a faster paced song with a beat that will get you jumping out of your chair and moving to the beat. Another blues track with some sensational guitar playing. The chorus harks back to old time blues with the band all chiming in on the word ‘Snakes’.
“Last Man Standing” brings more of a straight up rock song, but still a little blues mixed in. To me it has a Rolling Stones sound in the guitar playing even though it is a higher tempo song than you would get with the Stones. Jonny’s vocals work so well in the blues arena and are even suited for pure old rock.
Then we go back to the blues with the title track, “Signs”. One of the standouts for this track is Jonny’s voice. That grittiness is replaced with such a huge falsetto on the chorus that makes you wonder is someone grabbing his private parts. It is worth a listen for that alone. However, it is the guitar solo that reminds you that this man can do it all.
With “What You’re Made of”, Jonny changes it up a little in style and brings a good message to make you dig deep and find out what you’re made of. Oh yeah, the falsetto is even sicker here at one point. The song borders on cheesy, without stepping over that line. It has a fun little beat and is overall enjoyable.
“Bitter End” could quiet possibly be one of the best songs on the album and that is saying something with these songs. The chorus is what draws you in. I can’t describe it, but it comes screaming at you and stylistically is unlike anything on the album. It would fit nicely on any rock album and should be on the radio especially with another great guitar solo.
On the second half of the album we start off with the weakest song on the album, “Stronger Together”. It seems to be an attempt at a love song, but where “What You’re Made of” was on the border of being chessy, this song went over that mark into cheesy. I couldn’t get into the song for that reason. It doesn’t fit with this album.
I hoped the next song would bring it back on track. The song “Into the Light” is another song with his falsetto chorus and is a happy song, but it is missing something for me as well. I am starting to worry the back half is going to be all filler.
Luckily, it is not. “Bring Me Back Home” brings me back to what is great about this album and that is the bluesy songwriting and vocals. Jonny’s vocals step it up a notch with a softer, more soulful sound. They add some nice piano and you can hear some great bass. This is how you do a slow, almost ballady, bluesy love song.
Then we get to what is my absolute favorite song on the album, “Wisdom”. The loud foot stomp sound plus that distorted, dirty sounding guitar. The guitar solo is the best one on an album of great guitar solos. This is pure and utter BLUES!! It is magic and I don’t know if he has done a finer song. This song will show up on my Top Rock Songs of 2017, you can count on that.
The final song is the acoustic guitar driven “Singing Songs”. This is the most unique song on the album that doesn’t necessarily fit with the tone of the rest of the album, but damn it is so good. It is a slower song and the acoustic guitar sounds incredible mixed with a little piano. There is a darkness to the song as well which I like. Now, the chorus reminds of me another song and for the life of me I can’t place it despite repeat listens. Give it a listen and see if you can help me out.
- “Make It Move” – Keeper
- “Snakes” – Keeper
- “Last Man Standing” – Keeper
- “Signs” – Keeper
- “What You’re Made Of” – Keeper
- “Bitter End” – Keeper
- “Stronger Together” – Delete
- “Into the Light” – Delete
- “Bring Me Back Home” – Keeper
- “Wisdom” – Keeper
- “Singing Songs” – Keeper
9 keepers out 11 songs – 82% (4.1 out 5 stars) Jonny Lang delivers his finest album in years. He has brought a rawness back to his music that brings a more authentic blues sound and brings a lot of emotion. There is no reason you should skip out on listening to this album. Go grab a copy and spin it. This is one of those gems that gets better with every listen as each time you find something new you like about it. Jonny has reminded us that this is how a Blues Rock album should be done.