"It wasn't long ago I was spiraling downward in a lot of ways, until God touched my life and set me on the right track," says Lang, when talking about his fifth album and his new found purpose in life. From the church organ intro that opens the collection, to the very same organ that closes the disc, Turn Around is a mature effort that will appeal to both secular and Christian listeners (although it contains as much of the former as it does the latter).
Over the course of his ten-year recording career, Lang has transformed himself from a blues-rocker, to a pop-rocker, and now a soul-rocker. The new Jonny comes across as a milder version of Prince, with a healthy amount of Al Green and Stevie Wonder thrown into the mix. Wonder's influence is most evident on "The Other Side Of The Fence," an organ scuffed track with blues overtones. Lang squeezes both his guitar and his vocal cords for all they're worth, draining ever ounce of emotion from his body.
Twenty-first Century Jonny stretches out like never before on both the expressive "My Love Remains" and the acoustically carved "That Great Day." The latter, a slow moving country number with mandolin and steel guitar, features special guests Sam Bush and Buddy Miller. Lang sings about the day God's children will be reunited with their father. The testimony continues on the slinky "It's Not Over." A choir backs Lang up as he points to God and reminds listeners that there's still time to be saved. Elastic guitar leads and a shimmering organ tangle themselves around Lang's greasy vocals.
The album highlight comes when Michael McDonald trades lines with Lang on the soul searing "Thankful." Once again a quivering organ sidles up next to a gospel choir, as Lang and McDonald offer praise to the Great Musician in the sky. A funky backbeat and thumping bass line leave just enough room for piano and a bit of guitar. Lang and McDonald complement one another with their gritty vocal delivery.
He started off blue to the bone, then he went through the rebel rock phase, now Jonny Lang has settled into a spiritual groove. Turn Around is a great new direction for an old soul.