J langJonny Lang's new album might not be what you expect – but what you can expect is a primal scream from the soul...

Fight For My Soul
Jonny Lang
Concord Records
11 tracks / 55:50

Seven years after his last studio project Jonny Lang gives us Fight For My Soul, eleven songs that deliver ample servings of the passion and fire we've come to expect from this artist. This time Lang deftly steps out of the two boxes that we expected – blues and gospel – and instead gives us funk, soul, and plenty of raw emotion. This is not to say that there's no blues or gospel on Fight For My Soul, but the album wouldn't fit neatly into either category. The album instead incorporates these elements of Lang's style into a pop-funk masterpiece that runs the gamut from danceable hooky jams to sweeping ballads.

The brilliant Tommy Sims is Lang's co-producer as well as co-writer and the combination of these two talents has produced an infectious collection of songs featuring in-your-face vocals, ugly-face funk, moments of bone-chilling beauty, plenty of hooks, and selected moments of guitar work of almost primal intensity.

Langs's band, of course, is more than up to the challenge:
Dwan Hill – keyboards, piano
Akil Thompson – rhythm guitar
James Anton – bass
Barry Alexander – drums
Melissa "Missi" Hale - background vocals
Although there are additional musicians throughout the album, this is the core of the sound and it's white-hot. In particular, Barry Alexander has a rhythmic approach behind the drum kit that's almost frightening.

Lang's vocal delivery on Fight For My Soul shows influences of everyone from Michael Jackson and Jon Gibson to Prince, wielding a staggeringly flexible falsetto that 'The Artist Formerly Known As' would be jealous of – evidence: the love ballad, "All of a Sudden."  On the rougher side of the coin, Lang can sing with a sandpaper-funk power and a gutsy sense of urgency that grabs you right through the speakers.

As far as guitar work goes, Lang is doing wonderful things all through the project. When he does rise to the surface with a solo, as he does on "We Are The Same," it's scary, wild stuff. The blues is still Jonny's base, and his soloing is always intense and flavored by that, but the context overall on Fight For My Soul is rock/pop/funk – with a few strong ballads for good measure. Closing the album, the seven-minute, slowly building epic, "I'll Always Be," features a gut-wrenchingly emotional beast of a guitar solo that will give you an ugly face. Get that? It will make your face get ugly. It's that good – worth the price of admission.

Lyrically, the album is very introspective, often confessional, bittersweet and sometimes world-weary in its observations. Yes, there's some anger (usually aimed at hypocracy), but it seems more often than not to be self-directed. Sprinkled throughout are some inspirational vignettes and glimmers of hope, like in "We Are All The Same" - "And as we turn the tide, and learn to live with no disguise no blame, only love remains, at last the sun will rise, and we'll walk in the light, as one someday..." Don't look for obvious or heavy-handed gospel messages. Once again, from "We Are All The Same," Lang sings, "Read the book, it blew my mind, I guess I didn't see what was between the lines, Is where the story was..." and that's where the story lies on Fight For My Soul, a musical chronicle of one man's inner journey.

It's intense. And it's got some serious soul.

-Bert Saraco

{module Possibly Related Articles - Also search our Legacy Site}