When Jonny Lang’s first album for four years, Signs, dropped through the door the immediate thought was: “Blessed!” This proved a more than accurate reaction. Signs is an album of contrast, light and texture with a pulsating, nerve shredding opening five numbers finally cooling and growing mellower and more heartfelt towards its latter stages.
Make It Move is a barnstorming opener guaranteed to have heads semi-gyrating from the off before Snakes kicks in. An old school rock ‘n’ roller on the face of it, there’s a depth and resonance beneath the surface of this second number that’s supplied not only by Lang’s at times Prince-esque vocals, but also the majestic, grinding guitar work he produces.
Last Man Standing for all of its 80s Big Hair Band vibe is, nevertheless, moulded from the here and now. With excitement positively rippling from the speakers, turning it down is impossible. So not is singing / humming the melody to yourself long after it has ended.
Then comes a more traditional homage to the blues with the title track. A sensuous, velveteen beauty, Signs is not unlike like a mountain that slowly rises from the sea, the scaling of which bringing its own rewards so that the listener moves just a little closer to heaven as a result.
What really smashes home with this album though is the maturity with which every single aspect is laced. Jonny Lang is a mere 36 but has already had a successful career for two decades. It’s easy to see why. His voice is an ever changing instrument; a tool wielded like a master mason hewing the most delicate of sculptures from bare, raw ice.
What Your Made Of is a funk-fest. Addled with subtle grace and homogenous Doobie Brothers feel-goodness, this is yet another gem nestling amidst a treasure chest crammed with jewels of rare quality, a cool breeze that arrives before Bitter End cranks things up to fever pitch.
Arguably track of the album (as though choosing between The Mona Lisa and Sunflowers is easy when pricing works of art), Bitter End is seared through with intelligence, consummate musicianship and a deep respect for the genre in which the creator practices.
There are moments of SRV and Steve Vai in here, true, along with nods towards the likes of Gary Moore for good measure. Yet with this said, the cut has its own feeling, a singular integrity, and so soars high on thermal drafts of its own making.
Stronger Together and Into The Light may herald the notion that this ten track jamboree is moving into the wee small hours, but rest assured that there’s more than enough energy in the pipes still to come.
The latter may be as cool as a ditched mistress, true, yet its urgency is so exotically intoxicating, there may be bonus points placed on your Good Times Only License by its raucous, rapturous close.
Bring Me Back Home is a heart wrenchingly beautiful ballad to summon up the rawest, truest images of that which is important in life, accentuated purposefully by the most delicate piano in the background.
Wisdom raises the pace once more, its thumping percussion resonating through the deepest, edgiest, smokiest vocals imaginable, before Singing Songs closes proceedings on a whimsical high.
With something to suit everybody, Signs is a class, class act and Jonny Lang has delivered an album as close to being as eclectically, stylistically, musically and downright magically perfect as anyone dare hope.
Label: Provogue Records
Other Editions: Vinyl
25 August, 2017
Make It Move
Last Man Standing
What You’re Made Of
Into The Light
Bring Me Back Home