How often have we bared witness to the performance of a rising artist, not fully realizing their potential impact on a musical genre? Can we rewind the tape and ask ourselves what was going through our hearts and minds as our early scepticism paved the way for such iconic figures as Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Bob Marley and James Brown? What propels one to achieve the grandest of accolades and respect of a generation? Is it time, commitment, or simply a God-given raw talent?
With his predecessors establishing the origins of “blues” music, now well-chiselled into the foundation of music history, Jonny Lang seems to have been predetermined to carry on the proverbial torch. After witnessing his performance alongside blues legend Buddy Guy at a very welcoming Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, it was undeniable that Lang was the total embodiment of the art. From the piercing tone of his Custom Shop Thinline Fender Telecaster to his incredible gritty vocal tone often compared to that of a seasoned blues veteran, Lang appeared destined for musical greatness.
Having been introduced to music at age 12 by his father who brought him to see his first live act “Bad Medicine Blues Band”, the experience was obviously transformational. With his inherent musical ability he later lead that same group which was renamed “Kid Johnny Lang and the Big Bang” to foster the gifted prodigy. With the band independently creating only one studio album entitled “Smokin”, A&M Records quickly latched onto Lang and released the critically acclaimed multi-platinum “Lie to Me” in 1997 one day prior to Jonny’s 16th birthday. The following year brought his second solo release “Wander This World” which earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album.
With a five year hiatus from recording, Lang’s more soulful side became apparent on the appropriately titled “Long Time Coming”. Jonny attributes the delay due to the over-take of A&M Records by Universal Music Group and having to regain the support of a new label. Now in control once again, 2006 brought Lang the recognition that he truly deserved. The Grammy Award which he nearly received 8 years prior was now bestowed upon him for the release of “Turn Around”. Jonny humbly states, “It was so flattering....amazing....I didn’t at all shoot for that and I didn’t expect to even get nominated, especially in that category.”
Opening Wednesday evening’s concert was the energetic “Don’t Stop” followed later by “Red Light” which truly captured the range and ability of Lang’s incredible vocal gift. The Stevie Wonder classic “Livin’ for the City” showcased the extraordinary talent supporting Jonny night after night as each band member flexed their own musical muscle behind their respective instrument. His instinctive connection to each of the many musical genres delivered in his repertoire that evening showed the complete versatility and conviction of this still-young blues prodigy.
Having graced the stage with such historic guitar legends as B.B. King and Eric Clapton, it seems as though these giants are showing their support to the rising of a new blues sensation. Not since the great Stevie Ray Vaughan has there been such a talent able to reenergize this cherished musical style. However, with all eyes on Jonny Lang it will certainly have been a “Long Time Coming”!