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December 1998

Jonny Lang
Wander This World
A&M

Young blues-rock sensation Jonny Lang-fresh off his appearance in the movie Blues Brothers 2000 and a triumphant worldwide tour with Buddy Guy -is back with his sophomore release, the scorching Wander This World (A&M; 53:37). A big-budget production with all the trappings, it features the scrawny guitar hero wailing in a Jimi Hendrix-Stevie Ray Vaughan vein on originals like Still Raining and Second Guessing has a more laid back Stax/Volt r&b vibe to it, and Lang does this sort of thing well. His rough, raspy vocals carry a kind of authority, as he displays on the affecting pop ditty "Breakin'" Me and the passionate title track. He wears a kind of menacing, Prince-like cloak on two funky numbers, "I Am" and "Before You Hit the Ground", and he breaks out some vicious Jimi-inspired wah-wah licks on a dramatic "The Levee." The 12-bar Angel of Mercy is perhaps the most straightforward blues tune on the album, and he delivers in convincing funk-soul fashion...part Al Green, part Albert Collins, part Joe Cocker. Lang also flaunts his blues credentials on the forceful minor key closer, "Cherry Red Wine." While I wouldn't exactly call him a bonafide bluesman, I would concede that Lang is a pop star with guts. And a sackfull o' chops.

Originally published in December 1998
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