Album Remarks & Appraisals:
2010 release, the first official live album from the Grammy Award-winning Blues guitarist. This set captures the guitarist in an electrifying performance at the famed Ryman Theatre in Nashville, TN. This is Lang in his natural element: onstage in front of an adoring audience, celebrating the past and heralding the future of the Blues. 12 tracks.
Jonny Lang (born Jon Gordon Langseth, Jr., January 29, 1981 in Fargo, North Dakota) is a Grammy award-winning American blues,gospel, and rock singer, songwriter and recording artist. Lang's music is notable for both his unusual voice, which has been compared to that of a forty-year-old blues veteran, and for his guitar solos. His solo patterns have especially been noted for the constant use of wide vibratos.
"Since making his debut as a blues-rock wünderkind back in 1997, Jonny Lang has struggled to fulfill his seemingly enormous potential. As an acolyte of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lang has demonstrated above-average chops when it comes to standard 12-bar blues tropes. In his more recent stints as a harder-edged adult Top 40 act and as a rock gospel singer, he's been far less convincing. The problem with Lang'sLive at the Ryman. album, his sixth overall and first since 2006's gospel record Turn Around., is that it draws equally from each of those phases of his career without giving any real indication as to where he intends to go from here.
From a purely technical standpoint, there's no fault to be found in the recording of Lang's performance at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium. His backing band is simply first rate. Tommy Barbarella makes fantastic use of a Hammond organ, and guitarist Sonny Thompson provides gritty counterpoints to some of Lang's blustery lead guitar licks. The majority of the arrangements mirror those found on Lang's studio albums, and most of those arrangements work, as the band finds a balance between slick professionalism and the loose-limbed abandon of the best blues music.
Lang proves himself a capable frontman throughout the set. Blessed with a rich, versatile baritone and one of modern music's most full-bodied falsettos, Lang is in fine voice. Although he often borders on the histrionic on gospel rave-ups like "Turn Around" and "Thankful," he brings a ragged soulfulness to standout blues-leaning cuts "Give Me Up Again" and "A Quitter Never Wins." The highlight of the set is a melancholy and surprisingly subdued take on "Breakin' Me," a single from 1998's Wander This World. and easily the meatiest, best-written song in his catalogue.
It's all the more unfortunate, then, that so much of that catalogue is characterized by lackluster material. After five proper studio albums, middling songs like "Red Light" and "Bump in the Road" shouldn't be the best he has to draw from. Despite an inexplicable Grammy win for Turn Around., his gospel songs are particularly weak. References to the "welfare line" in "Thankful" are kind of embarrassing, while "One Person at a Time" sounds like it should be the theme song to one of American Idol.'s "Idol Gives Back" charity drives. However compelling a live performer Lang may be, there's only so much he and his band can do with this material." -SlantMagazine
"Anyone who's witnessed Jonny Lang in concert already knows of the febrile passion he summons on stage. Often looking as if he's locked in his own zone, galvanized by an electric guitar, the once-child prodigy and now-29-year-old seasoned musician elicits many an inspired, spontaneous moment rather than merely duplicating his songs in front of an audience. Which is arguably why his studio albums have never really been able to capture that same impulsive energy.
That's not to say his records, particularly his lauded major-label debut, Lie To Me., and his even more realized follow-up, Wander This World., didn't offer soulful, formidable performances. However, the difference between the LTM. version of "A Quitter Never Wins" and the one on his latest release, Live At The Ryman., is pronounced.
It's much the same story throughout as Lang delivers a solid if not altogether well-rounded batch of songs - nearly half come from his 2006 Christian-influenced LP, Turn Around. - leaning heavily toward more-recent fare. Still, he shines on "Give Me Up Again," exhibiting his vocal maturation as he sings with marked restraint before and after howling out its anguished refrain. Things then simmer down on "Breakin' Me," with Lang drawing out the poignant, acoustic cut for nearly eight minutes.
Despite boasting a funky roll through the Prince-penned cut, "I Am" - which Lang wraps up with some high-pitched wails that would make the Purple One proud, or jealous - the album's major disappointment is in its overall shortage of covers. In fact, Lang often dusts a few of them off during his concerts, including Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City" and "Superstition," his take on the latter bearing striking resemblance to the late Stevie Ray Vaughan's ferocious rendition. Such inclusion would not only have been welcome, but it would have also reflected more of a representative set overall. Nevertheless, Live At The Ryman. is sufficient in its merits to please old and new listeners alike." -BlogCritics
Personnel: Jonny Lang (vocals, guitar); Sonny Thompson (vocals, guitar); Jim Anton (vocals); Tommy Barbarella (keyboards); Barry Alexander (drums); Jason Eskridge (percussion, background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Erik "Keller" Jahner; Seth Presant.
Recording information: The Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN (08/30/2008).
Nashville's Ryman Auditorium may no longer be the home of the Grand Ole Opry, but it is still known for country music. Jonny Lang claims the venue for the blues on this live recording, however. Before an enthusiastic audience, he turns in a representative set full of energy and screaming electric guitar playing. The band seems amped up from the outset on "One Person at a Time," a statement of purpose as well as a plea to disc jockeys to play Lang's music and help him to platinum status. Elsewhere, he sings of love gone wrong and right, as well as his determination to succeed. His voice is one of those functional ones for a blues musician who is more of an instrumentalist than a singer, as if he'd taken lessons from Eric Clapton and Warren Haynes. The point is expressiveness more than hitting the right notes. The ten-minute "Red Light" is the show's centerpiece, a philosophical ballad that keeps threatening to turn into Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" as Lang repeats "Everything is gonna be all right." "Thankful" is closer to gospel than the blues, which may be more appropriate to the venue. The songs are more than just platforms for Lang's guitar, just as the band is more than just musical support for it. But he is still a guitar hero, and this spirited performance only confirms that. ~ William Ruhlmann
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