At the age of 32, Jonny Lang has been riding the roads as a blues musicians for as many years as he had been alive when he released his first album. In fact, Lang has been so busy touring with the likes of Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and The Rolling Stones that he hasn't found the time to release an album of new material in 7 years, since 2006's "Turn Around." That changed this year when Lang finally released his highly anticipated new album "Fight for my Soul."
While Lang's impressive guitar licks and voice that sounded almost impossibly world weary even at 16 got him much success in the blues community, he has always been an artist who has flirted with other genres, most successfully in gospel and contemporary Christian music. The changes and influences have been gradual and small enough to keep him firmly listed in the blues genre. But with 7 years, nearly 1/4 of his life, since his last offering, "Fight for my Soul" offers a much more noticeable jump into other musical genres than past offerings.
While on Lang's breakout album, 1997's "Lie to Me", the vocals served to give the audience a break from the dizzying guitar solos, "Fight for my Soul" flips the formula. There are certainly some very impressive guitar chops here, particularly on album single and standout track "Burn Down the House" and the soulful "What You're Looking For", most of the guitar work on the album is there to drive the vocals. Lang shows deep influences from funk, soul, and Motown music throughout the album. "Not Right" could have found a place on any Sly and the Family Stone album while "We Are the Same" evokes memories of Lenny Kravitz style guitar soaked funk.
Nowhere is that R&B influence more felt than on "River", with its chorus of female backing vocals chiming into the chorus with "I know the river is wide! I know it's waiting on the other side!" It's a surprisingly deft bit of Motown from Lang.
There are purists who are going to hate this album. There are casual fans who only bought "Lie to Me" who are going to wonder if they picked up an album by a different Jonny Lang when they listen to "Fight for my Soul." But if you put aside expectations, there's plenty of goodness here for fans of traditional electric blues to chew on while fans of funk, soul, and R&B will find this album a good jumping on point for Lang.