REVIEW: Jonny Lang – Live at The Ryman

Artist: Jonny Lang
Album: Live At The Ryman
Genre: Rock/Blues
Label: SayRai Music

While there’s generally little to debut beyond whether or not the recording is solid on a live record, Jonny Lang’s recent release, Live at The Ryman is truly an album that deserves more attention than it has gotten. Lang, much in the vein of rock legends Kiss, has always been defined by the word of mouth stemming from the intensity of his live show and now, for the first time, fans have a chance to experience THE newest legend of blues at home.

For those not in the know, Lang has been digging a deep niche into the rock and blues world for well over a decade. Delivering his first label release at the tender age of 16. Lie To Me has since gone on to be a multi-platinum mega-success in a genre many have forgotten about. However, as anyone whose seen it themselves will attest, the true beauty of Lang’s work is best experienced in a live setting as has been a common theme for music in the blues genre since the inception of recorded music. Nothing compares to the raw feel of a live band and there’s a sense of spontaneity that studio records just can’t offer.

On Live at the Ryman, Lang is at his absolute best as he and his rotating band set a Nashville stage on fire with their musical prowess. Tearing through a set that relies heavily on Lang’s new material, the group rarely seems to tire whilst never-ceasing to take every song from a basic studio version structure into a full-blown performance piece. Many tracks break the 5 minute mark, but I dare anyone who actually listens to complain as Lang and crew use nearly every instrument imaginable, including a set of back up vocalists to fully display his artistic vision.

As for Lang himself, his signature gruff voice has never sounded as heartfelt as it does here. Every uttered phrase radiates with the energy you can imagine him putting forth as he works his guitar as an extension of himself, evoking feelings few these days are able to conjure. The emotional depth of each song is only intensified as the album progresses and you can feel the sweat begin to drip as the guitar solos grow in size and intricacy. It allows for every track to breathe, while still sounding tighter than any “all of sound” production effect ever could. Lang and his bandmates know each other and while it feel very off the cuff, you know it’s been worked, reworked, and scrutinized down to each and ever phrase. It’s raw, real rock and roll with these vocals the evoke such unfathomable pain and strife as to say “no matter the woes, I have a message you need to hear.”

Jonny Lang is well-known in the circles that follow the blues scene, but why he’s not an international household name is far beyond me. Listening to any single track from Live At The Ryman should pack enough power to convert anyone, even those completely uninterested in the scene, to being a full-fledged Lang devotee. The energy and raw feel of the every song is simply blistering and while it is a bit underwhelming that so much of the material comes from Lang’s more recent work, it’s still better than three-fourths of what you’ll find elsewhere in the music industry.

Score: 8/10

James Shotwell
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