At age 79, Buddy Guy is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a major influence on rock titans like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, a pioneer of Chicago’s fabled West Side sound, and a living link to the city’s halcyon days of electric blues. Buddy Guy has received 7 GRAMMY Awards, a 2015 Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY Award, 34 Blues Music Awards (the most any artist has received), the Billboard Magazine Century Award for distinguished artistic achievement, a Kennedy Center Honor, and the Presidential National Medal of Arts. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #23 in its "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time." Buddy Guy released his brand new studio album Born To Play Guitar on July 31, 2015 via Silvertone/RCA Records, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums chart. The follow-up to his 2013 first-ever double disc release, Rhythm & Blues, which also debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums chart, Born To Play Guitar is produced by GRAMMY Award winning producer/songwriter and Buddy’s longtime collaborator Tom Hambridge. The new release features guest appearances by Van Morrison, Joss Stone, Kim Wilson and Billy Gibbons.
In January, 1987, at the age of 16, Jonny Lang found incredible success with the release of his major label debut album Lie To Me. Regarding his recent studio album, Fight For My Soul, Lang shares, "The inspiration for the songs on the record vary widely. Some are about personal struggles, some are focused on injustices I have seen. Some are random fictional stories that hopefully can relate to people in some way that is a blessing to them. I’ve wanted to make this album for a long time. Creatively, I think there is a lot more going on inside of me than I’ve been sharing on recordings." The album defies categorization by a single genre. The textured arrangements, broad worldview, gorgeous vocal melodies, and expressive guitar playing are what defines Fight For My Soul. It is unequivocally what Lang aimed to achieve over the long period he has been working on reaching a realized vision. He offers, "Much of what I've experienced through music and life in general is in these songs. I really like reaching out and connecting with people. For me, this is what it's all about. It keeps it fresh with different experiences every day." This grass roots approach for FFMS was new to Lang, whose four earlier studio albums were written and crafted under the watch of his previous record labels. It was a welcome change. After Lang released his Grammy winning Turn Around in 2007, he made the decision to forego the major label route and became an independent artist. The first result was 2009’s Live At the Ryman, but Fight For My Soul, by its nature, is his first fully realized artistic achievement through his own label SayRai Music, featuring his own touring band. “Recording with the band for the first time was really gratifying,” says Lang. “They’re all amazing musicians and we’ve grown together musically and personally by playing hundreds of live shows. This served us well in the making of Fight For My Soul. Because of them, I have grown musically in ways I never thought I could, and it really is an honor to have them on this record."
As an artist he has evolved since he began the writing process. The sound of that evolution is all over Fight For My Soul. “What You’re Looking For” carefully layers banjo, guitars, spacey keyboards and a percussion sample to create a sonic dreamscape for its story of searching for life’s essentials — faith, love, hope. The arrangement of “We Are the Same” evokes the freewheeling spirit of Motown’s Psychedelic Shack era. The path Lang has been on has brought him the opportunity to interact with some of the most respected legends in music. On the way up, he shared the stage with The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Aerosmith, Sting, and Buddy Guy, who he continues to tour with today.
If the blues is all about the crossroads, Jonny Lang is standing in the right place. Lang is the ideal representative of a new and innovative generation of blues artists – one who respects and reveres the traditions of the past, yet isn’t afraid to embrace more complex and evolved genres and graft them to the blues foundation to create a hybrid sound that is both traditional and fresh at the same time.
Indeed, on any given night, impressively large crowds at a Jonny Lang performance are likely to hear shades of R&B, soul, gospel, hard rock, funk and more. All of it is packaged in a high-octane guitar-and-vocal attack from an artist who has covered countless miles since his teenage years, and continues to explore new horizons with confidence and enthusiasm.
Lang’s trajectory over the past two decades has been fascinating to watch. Born and raised inFargo,North Dakotahe was introduced to the Motown sound early on by his parents. Lang got a taste of something a little more fundamental and powerful at age 12, when his father took him to see the Bad Medicine Blues Band, a mainstay of the Fargo club scene. Suddenly, it was all about the blues – and even more importantly, all about the guitar. Within weeks, Lang was taking lessons from Bad Medicine guitarist Ted Larsen. By the time he was 13, he had developed sufficient chops to land a spot in the band.
The group moved to Minneapolis, renamed itself Kid Jonny Lang and the Big Bang, and recorded the independently-released Smokin’ in 1995. Lie To Me, the 1997 follow up album propelled by a hit title track, introduced the 16-year-old Lang to a worldwide audience. The young guitarist’s affinity for funk, soul and gospel was already apparent on Lie To Me, as well as the Grammy-nominated Wander This World, released in 1998. During a five-year recording hiatus, Lang stayed busy on the stage. By the end of his teen years, he had already supported world tours for Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones. Othe stage credits include tours and/or performances with Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Ron Wood, Bono and Sting.
Lang returned with Long Time Comin’ in 2003. An amalgam of blues, rock and soul, the album reflected Lang’s growing talents as a songwriter and producer. It all came together three years later with the gospel-influenced Turn Around, the 2006 release that landed Jonny his first Grammy win. “That was an amazing moment in my career,” says Lang. “The idea of winning a Grammy had never been one of those things that really lit a fire under me. But then after it happened, I got an understanding of what it really means to go up against some amazing world-class musicians and win.
That all being said, Lang still considers himself to be very much a work in progress – on all fronts, musical and otherwise. “In my own life, music has been such a powerful force, and I know that’s the case for a lot of people. I’ve seen how music can give people the strength to change. After years of witnessing that, it’s become more of a focus for me to write songs that really count. I’m a blues musician, but I’m also much more than that,” he says. “I’m still growing as an artist and as a person, and I’m always contemplating different ideas as my world view changes. There’s still a lot more to do, and I want to accomplish as much as possible while I can.
Lang is currently in the studio working on a new album (his first in seven years) which is due out this fall.
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