Long time coming

Bluesman Jonny Lang returns with a new album and a show on Friday at the Keswick Theatre.

By Bill McFarland

Northeast Times Staff Writer

It's been a long time coming, but Jonny Lang has finally released his third album, and he will appear at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside on Friday at 8 p.m. to help promote it.

Appropriately titled, Long Time Coming, which will hit the stores on Oct. 14, also marks a bit of a departure for the 22-year-old singer/guitarist who burst onto the music scene in 1997 as a 16-year-old playing the blues like a 60-year-old veteran.

"This album is a little different, but it was exciting at the same time," Lang said from his home in Los Angeles. "It was such a low-pressure atmosphere (at the recording sessions), and I was kind of given permission to stretch out. Because of that, I feel like Long Time Coming is the real me."

To understand where Lang is heading, it helps to know where he came from. Born in Fargo, N.D., Jon Langseth grew up in a household listening to all kinds of music. The turning point, however, was when his father, also named Jon, took him to see the Bad Medicine Blues Band.

"I was twelve years old," recalled Lang. "It was my first live show. It was so surreal. I had never seen anybody play guitar like that."

Young Jon was admiring the picking of axe grinder Ted Larsen, and since the elder Langseth was friends with the band, he arranged for his son to take lessons from Larsen.

"I always wanted to sing," Lang remembered. "I never really thought about playing an instrument until I had a teacher. I was into Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots and that kind of stuff, but (Larsen) said, 'I can't teach you that,' so I said, 'Teach me whatever you can.'"

It turned out to be a case of the student being better than the tutor. Lang honed his skills as a blues guitarist so masterfully that he soon ended up as the front man for Bad Medicine, which was then re-named Kid Jonny Lang & the Big Bang.

Realizing the potential of their son's talent, Marcia and Jon Langseth, who were actually divorced by this time, decided to move the family to Minneapolis, because blues music was thriving in that city's nightclubs. Jonny's gigs eventually caught the attention of A & M Records, and the musician was signed to a four-album deal.

As a 16-year-old, Lang toured constantly as his inaugural effort, Lie To Me, rode the top of the blues album charts for 19 weeks in 1997. His sophomore release, Wander This World, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1999. Both were produced by David Z, who wrote, played with and produced Prince, one of the biggest musical talents to emerge from the Twin Cities.

Long Time Coming pretty much began the same way, but a couple of factors forged a change in direction, which explains the delay in getting out the third album.

"It was a combination of things," said Lang. "I didn't really mind (the layoff). It was nice to have some time at home.

"We had begun working on an album with David, and I think we cut nearly thirty songs. It was OK, but it was a lot like the last record, which wasn't a bad thing, but the record company had a change in management, and we kind of got lost in the shuffle. They were more interested in developing me as an artist, and everything was geared toward turning out radio-play product. (Record company executive) Jimmy Iovin thought it would be better for me to hook up with somebody else."

Thus began the metamorphosis. While his first two releases were a mixture of cover versions of old blues songs and original material, Long Time Coming is heavily skewed toward the latter. Lang wrote or co-wrote most of the songs this time, and he co-produced the tracks with Marty Fredrickson, who previously worked with Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne and Faith Hill.

It was this collaboration that changed the final product.

"It was originally supposed to be just for one song, but Marty and I hit it off immediately, and (the record company) liked it, so they encouraged me to go with it," said Lang. "Everybody has an idea of what they want somebody to sound like, and as an artist, sometimes it's hard to conform to what a producer wants to hear, so it was neat to just have an idea and go with it instead of having to come up with a common denominator that everybody wants.

"Marty was a big help in getting me out of the mindset that I was in, and he would challenge me to go a little further with my ideas. He turned out to be one of my best friends musically. It was great to be able to co-produce with him."

The end result was songs that are somewhat autobiographical, as Lang sings titles such as Give Me Up Again, If I Try, Goodbye Letter and To Love Again. The Keswick show will likely be a mixture of the new material along with the blues that made Lang's reputation.

Guitarist Paul Deithelm, keyboardist Bruce McCabe and drummer Billy Thommes, who appeared with Lang at the Electric Factory in 1999, return with new band members Billy Franzee (bass), David Eiland (saxophone/percussion) and Rick Barron (back-up vocals).

Another notable change is that Lang got married more than two years ago, but he has no offspring.

"No, but we have a dog," he offered.

This story was published on Oct. 1, 2003, in the Northeast Times in Philadelphia, which owns the copyright. It may not be reproduced anywhere else without permission.


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