Although he had been something of a child prodigy, I will be honest and tell you that I’d not heard of Jonny Lang when this album arrived. But, because it came from a trusted record label, I gave it a spin.
Three weeks later, and after countless plays in a variety of situations, I was still baffled. The music bore next to no similarity to what the Press Release said.
So, forgetting all of their hyperbole, FIGHT FOR MY SOUL actually fits perfectly next to your Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Prince and Hendrix albums. It’s now 16 years since Lang first hit fame head-on as a sixteen year old ‘guitar genius’ and seven since he won a Grammy for TURN AROUND. The intervening years haven’t been kind to him, but he’s now a married father and has listened to a lot of the aforementioned guitarists and I’d wager a lot of Heavy Soul too, as this album has a really hard edge to it that straddles modern Blues and Classic Soul exceptionally well.
What You’re Looking For will best be heard late at night and, after a few drinks, will make you think you are listening to Curtis Mayfield singing alongside a restrained Jimi. It really is that good.
Lang is first and foremost a guitarist, and a truly great one at that. But, on FIGHT FOR MY SOUL, he uses his guitar as an instrument to guide that wonderful voice into areas he’d probably never thought possible.
There is a beautiful Spanish feel to the introspective The Truth, which has Lang’s voice cracking at times, as he delves deep into his heart on a Power Ballad that could have been a Rock Classic from the 80’s or 90’s but (sadly) will struggle to get airplay these days.
In the title track Fight For My Soul, Lang subtly mentions ‘Diamonds and Pearls’ in a direct nod to Prince. But, for me, the clear and simple production of this album knocks spots off anything the diminutive Purple One ever recorded.
On arguably my favourite track, and definitely my wife’s, the acoustic love song All Of a Sudden, Lang makes his voice soar and growl in equal measure on a song that wouldn’t surprise me if Eric Clapton picked up on it.
It’s taken a lot of perseverance on my behalf, but I’ve grown to really like this album, although I don’t know what his existing fan base will make of it.