The Grammy-nominated, Platinum-selling former prodigy blues guitarist and singer/songwriter who topped the Billboard New Artist chart with his first album at age 15, stands now as a mature creative force, made more sensitive yet also toughened by life's adventures. He's learned what it means to rise above hard times and to find meaning where chaos seemed to rule. These insights, and the emotions they unleash, make Turn Around the pivotal album of Jonny Lang's career to date a passage that links the triumphs of his past to the promise of his future. Produced by Ron Fair (Black Eyed Peas, Mary J. Blige, Counting Crows), energized through collaboration with songwriter/performers Drew Ramsey, Shannon Sanders and Steven Curtis Chapman, anchored and elevated by former Prince NPG rhythm dynamo Michael Bland, Turn Around is Lang's fifth album but it's also the first of what will become his most moving and enduring works.
The churchy organ that opens and closes Jonny Lang's fifth album reveals its direction. After 2003's Long Time Coming
plunged the once-up-and-coming blues guitarist into more soulful and commercial waters, Turn Around
completes the transition. Lang is lyrically direct in his spiritual awakening, and the uplifting if sometimes pedantic lyrics make it clear that any vestiges of the teenaged guitar slinger that knocked out an impressive version of the lascivious "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" on his debut are far in the past. A few short leads aside, Lang shifts into full Stevie Wonder/Prince mode, but unfortunately without the quality material that made those artists' work transcend genre. With vocals that shift from guttural howls to sweet and screaming falsetto on tunes like "Don't Stop (For Anything)" and a penchant for oversinging, he's not aiming for subtlety. But there are some winning melodies here: songs such as "Anything's Possible" and "One Person at a Time" boast catchy choruses in a funkified, gospel-tinged, adult-alternative vein bound to appeal to audiences that lean towards obvious religious references in their music. This is a well crafted, undeniably heartfelt set from Lang, who makes it abundantly clear he feels his destiny is to make the world a better place through Jesus. It's a valid enough objective that doesn't quite connect with Lang's rather heavy-handed lyrics, affected singing, and derivative tunes. --Hal Horowitz