Genre-bending is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days, and it seems to even more commonly apply to artists’ live shows. It’s hard t avoid it though, as Jeff Lang is truly a genre-bending man. A brief look through his catalog will tell you that this is a man who, simply, has too much going on in his head to strive for simplicity. Now, don’t get me wrong, focus has its place. I’m thinking of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, two 2008 artists who picked one style and performed it extremely well. But that’s not for Mr. Lang. His tastes move from country and Western to blues, folk, jazz, and “eco” (a term I use for Enya and the like; in other words, the music that used to be sold with TV ads of rainforests and waterfalls; anyone else remember those?). So he’s complex, but that’s not to say without focus. There’s a pretty clear voice throughout all his genre-bending (last time usage, I promise) and it seems to be decrying that Jeff Lang is a man who would simply cease to be were he is not creating music.
Anyway, some technical stuff. Mr. Lang most often gets classified as blues, bluegrass, or country, mostly because of the style of guitar he likes to play. So expect some beautiful steel-style guitar plucking, long, twangy country riffs emanating from the stage and his being all night long. The word “virtuoso” would not be inaccurate, but as with the best players of Blues and Country music (not to be confused with Honky-Tonk country, which is what they show on CMT, and is, by and large, bad) Mr. Lang is captivating because of the emotion he conveys in his guitar work. Lang’s got a beautiful, expressive voice, and never sounds like he’s trying too hard, but it’s the guitar work that will make you gently weep. They way he slides notes right into pizzicato finger-picking and back into that lovely twang drawl. His guitar sounds like someone from Louisiana or Tennessee to be sure, that long, comforting tone in every phrase, but his voice (luckily) sounds like it could be from anywhere.
It’s getting close to concert time, but if you can download a few tracks to get you comfortable, I’d recommend “Mr. God,” an almost OAR or Dispatch sounding tune with nice accompaniment and wonderful, unforced lyrical simplicity. “Gina,” is the song Ryan Adam’s always wishes he wrote, holding all the best parts of country music without any of the faults (including the pretension that Mr. Adams and alt-country stalwarts always have). “Gina,” also has one of the best acoustic side-by-side electric arrangements I’ve ever heard on a recording. For anyone who’s ever been to a gig in Nashville, you’ll know that this is one of the very best elements of live Country, and it’s very difficult to get right in a recording studio. I wish I could explain better, but download the track and you’ll see what I mean. Then there’s “Prepare Me Well,” where Mr. Lang turns into the Black Keys with an acoustic guitar, which is, yes, exactly as awesome as it sounds.
See you Saturday night at YuYinTang for other one by Split Works, should be a killer show!