(Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group)
Well dear reader, I have to start this review by being completely honest and say that I have been patiently waiting four years for a new Jonny Lang album. His ‘Turn Around’ album is one of the few records that I can listen to in its entirety over and over again and always get something out of it whether that be musically, spiritually or emotionally.
Anyway, back to the summer of 2017 and Lang has returned and given the world ‘Signs’, an album that is filled with songs of hope and togetherness (something that I feel the world needs now). From a production point of view Lang was joined by Drew Ramsey, Shannon Sanders and Josh Kelly who produced the track ‘Bring Me Back Home’.
Opener ‘Make It Move’ has this acoustic stomp and Jonny’s soulful vocals blended with stunning backing vocalists who help make the chorus pop. The electric guitar comes in at the perfect point in the song and lets it flourish.
‘Snakes’ boasts a tight rhythm section as Jonny sings ‘Snakes in the grass!’ as he admits that he should’ve listened to his mother who warned him about the snakes. Lyrically, it sounds like an autobiographical number.
With a rockier guitar in tow and a beautiful use of tone ‘Last Man Standing’ is a beast of a song with its anthemic style. A future live favourite I predict.
Title track ‘Signs’ is not a tribute to the Mel Gibson film of the same name but it proves that he is an incredible storyteller with his relatable subject matters and his energetic guitar solos. It has a very angry and intense delivery but it is distinctively Jonny Lang.
‘What You’re Made Of’ is in a Sly and the Family Stone territory with groovy bassline as Lang’s lead vocals are in the vein of Stevie Wonder in the Seventies. I hear a slight wah-wah in the guitar which just swings.
Eerie guitar and drums intro on ‘Bitter End’ hits you and the dark lyrics of ‘will we keep repeating history until the bitter end’. It has a very Nostradamus quality as Lang questions what is happening in the world just like Spirits ‘Nature’s Way’ which questioned our abuse of the nature and its resources (before the Wombles and recyclable tote bags were the norm).
One of the lighter moments on ‘Signs’, ‘Stronger Together’ tells the listener that when things seem lonely and scary it is being around others that will help. The addition of the choir of voices is a classy touch.
‘Into The Light’ should satisfy the Blues Police and keep them at bay as Jonny’s electric guitar just soars through like a majestic blues phoenix. ‘Bring Me Back Home’ is a vocal highlight with the light drums and jazz club piano framing the heartfelt lyrics and soulful vocal tone. Such a vocal range and power.
‘Wisdom’ has a real chug and could be an unreleased Robert Johnson but it misses something for me.
Closing track ‘Singing Songs’ is an acoustic lullaby that would not be out of place in Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’. You can hear the pain in Lang’s voice with every word he sings. The Spanish guitar along with the lush string section paints pictures of sunshine-drenched European islands in my mind.
In conclusion, Jonny Lang has returned with an album that covers a variety of styles from rock to blues and funk to acoustic and has songs which are very easy for people to connect with. His voice in in tremendous form whilst his guitar playing is technically flawless and allows the tracks to be three-dimensional. Unfortunately I do not have a list of personnel on my promo copy of the album so I am unable to name all of the fine musicians on this record but it must be said that they were able to bring all eleven of these tracks to live along with the aforementioned producers.
Just like label-mate Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang has created an album of all original songs for 2017 and both of those albums have become my favourite albums of 2017 after just one airing.
Make your move and give ‘Signs’ a listen.
Jonny Lang’s new studio album ‘Signs’ is released on Friday 25th August 2017 on Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group.
In addition, Jonny will be performing his only UK headline show at O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London, United Kingdom on Saturday 4th November 2017 for The London Folk & Roots Festival.
For tickets visit the festival’s website here: http://bit.ly/2vZa84v
For other tour dates and more information visit Jonny Lang’s official website here: http://bit.ly/2vt07LF