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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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180 degrees of innovation

By Danny Letz

Jonny Lang

Turn Around


Four-and-a-half out of five stars

Those acquainted with the name Jonny Lang are familiar with his guitar virtuosity.

At 16, Lang played alongside blues guitar legend Buddy Guy (considered by many to be one of the best guitarists ever), so there’s little question as to Lang’s abilities on a five-string.

What Grammy-nominated Lang’s most recent release, Turn Around, shows, however, is that Lang is much more than simply a guitarist. Lang is a musician.

Combining the sounds of earlier funk, gospel, soul and traditional love ballads, Lang constructs an album that doesn’t focus on blues or blues compositions alone, but showcases an ability to work across genres and typical musical tropes.

The combination of Lang and his backup vocal ensemble, “The Jonny Lang Thankful Choir,” results in an album that is righteous–and not in the cloistered, reverent fashion, but in the kick-down-the-doors, this-is-freaking-awesome fashion.

Boiled into a delicious stew of reeling organ chords, funkalicious guitar and a set of vocal screams, wails and roars that would turn Gabriel’s trumpet flaccid, the album ripens beautifully on the track “The Other Side of The Fence,” which demonstrates–without contention–that the most impressive instrument Lang plays on the album is his own voice.

Whether Lang’s wails are contorted into full-throated screams, as on the aforementioned track, are gritty, like on “Bump in The Road,” or are part of the album’s most sensitive duet, “Only a Man,” Lang’s vocals make the work of bombastic pop impersonators like Justin Timberlake pale in comparison.

Turn Around is a demonstration akin to the White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan: a showcase proving that a guitarist can be more than just a god of guitardom–he can be a musician capable of the versatility and talent that more than half of his generation’s contemporaries lack.

Definitely a departure from Lang’s earlier blues-centric work, Turn Around is an example of an artist working toward a synthesis of several genres simultaneously. And though different, it’s one of the best releases of the year.

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