1997, Music

Lie to Me by Jonny Lang (1997 A&M)

I have no issues with Lang’s playing. He manages to sound like multiple players at different times, which is generally a good thing, since he doesn’t remind me of any one guitarist too much to seem derivative. He is a pretty good blues guitarist, and very good for his then age.

His voice is another matter. Yes, it is incredible that a teenage white boy sounds like an old black man but that is the problem. He shouldn’t try to sound like an old black man. The kid needs his own voice. Better yet, kid needs a singer.

And a band. His handlers have assembled for him a bunch of competent musicians who evidently love the sound of ’80s and ’90s commercial (for lack of a better term) blues; where the music has regrettably gone since it became its own MOR genre for the music industry. These folks would fool nobody as to their background.

That is the problem with much of the material as well. The new music written for him sounds tailored to a marketing niche, and even the covers of old songs seem to fit in this niche.

The worst of the material is – unsurprisingly – Lang’s cowrites, both of which are pretty horrible, and the second of which features very little of the raison d’etre of his career: playing. Why do guitarists feel like they have to have garbage ballads on their albums? Men are ostensibly buying these records but is always the song for chicks thrown in their somewhere.

The production certainly doesn’t help things. Here we have an album made in complete ignorance of the alt-blues scene that was churning out albums at the same time. I can’t really handle that. There is no excuse for bad production as far as I’m concerned. Sure, Lang doesn’t know any better. But someone involved in this project should have.

It may sound like I’m totally panning this but I’m not. Lang is clearly a talented person – regardless of his looks which are, no doubt, the real reason for the record contract – and his band is very competent, if of a stripe I don’t particularly like. There is nothing bad about this but there is nothing good about it, outside of Lang’s playing. It is a super middle of the road album made for people who like their ‘blues’ radio friendly.


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