Jeff Lang, |
Everything Is Still
(Bobby Dazzler, 2001)
Jeff Lang defies classification. His music might come closest to the blues, but his version of the blues is far removed from both the traditional and electric varieties. Lang uses slide and unusually shaped guitars to create musical atmospheres, sometimes stormy with furious strumming, sometimes misty with washes of sound. For a beat, he stomps time on a box with his foot. He can wail above the storm of sound he creates, or whisper in the spaces between the notes. Then there are the songs he writes, which are filled with striking images and intriguing themes.
"Big Feeling," this album's opening track, is somewhat atypical for Lang in its lyrical and melodic directness. It's as close as Lang will ever get to a pop song, featuring a guitar riff that mimicks an electric keyboard. Another relatively straightforward song is "London," an exhilarating love song. But then there are numbers like the haunting "Some Memories Never Die" and "Release," which inexorably draw the listener into their worlds, line by line. Lang doesn't exactly sing the blues here; it's a harder-to-define sense of troubled emotions and unease. Perhaps appropriately, these songs insinuate themselves into the listener's thoughts and refuse to leave, even long after the notes have died away. Then there is "No Good Answers," which has the timeless simplicity of a traditional blues song.
Lang is an effective one-man band but on this album he is joined by Angus Diggs on percussion. It can be difficult to play percussion for a guitarist who is accustomed to being his own rhythm section, but Diggs does a good job of filling in around Lang's guitar. His percussion is never superfluous and he doesn't get in Lang's way.
Jeff Lang has toured extensively in North America during the past few years, no doubt a daunting proposition for a musician from Down Under. As one who has been lucky enough to see him live a number of times, I know that his live performances are amazing and never fail to win over new fans. The one shame is that more of his albums are not easily available in the States; only Cedar Grove has been released in the U.S. so far. Everything Is Still is on a Canadian label. Still, this music is worth any effort expended to get it. Jeff Lang is unique and his musical world, once experienced, is unforgettable.