Wander This World
When reviewers heard teen-aged Jonny Lang's debut album of 1997, Lie to Me, many of them commented on how mature the blues singer/guitarist sounded for his age. Similarly, Lang's second album, Wander This World, often sounds like it could have been the work of a man of 30. With David Z. (known for his work with Prince) producing, the Midwesterner delivers an exciting sophomore effort that has as much to do with soul, funk, and rock as it does with actual blues. Far from a purist, Lang takes an approach that is best described as Albert Collins, B.B. King, and Luther Allison by way of Otis Redding, Stax Records, and Eric Clapton. While "Angel of Mercy" and the moody "Cherry Red Wine" demonstrate his mastery of the 12-bar format, most of the other selections aren't actual 12-bar blues, but rather Southern-style soul, funk, or rock with a wealth of blues feeling. Lovers of 1960s Memphis soul should appreciate "Walking Away" and "Second Guessing," while "The Levee" and "Still Rainin'" have more of a rock orientation. The haunting title song finds Lang singing a little too convincingly about loneliness — even though Lang himself didn't actually write the lyrics — hearing an adolescent sounding so world-weary and isolated is rather disconcerting. There's nothing even remotely bubblegum about this excellent CD, which proves that Lang's supporters had every right to be enthusiastic.