Three years ago, Jonny Lang brought his rock- and soul-tinged blues to Detroit and packed an aging theater with fans who were clamoring for some of the infamous guitar work that had made him a sensation when he released Lie to Me at the ridiculously young age of 15. Who, after all, thought a 15-year-old could understand the blues? But on that stage in Detroit, there was no doubt that Lang’s blood ran blue. And not just because, you know, human blood is blue before it reacts to oxygen, but because, you know, he gets the blues. Maybe that’s why old-timers such as Leadbelly and B.B. King lined up to record a tribute album to Lang in 2004, even though Lang was only 23 and not dead yet. Lang should have been the guy playing on tribute albums to these guys, but that’s just it: He’s that good.
In Detroit, he played all the songs you expected him to play and tore through long guitar solos on every one. Seriously, even the ballads got guitar solos. If he was talking to the crowd, he tossed in a guitar solo. OK, he didn’t play guitar during his little chats, but you know he wanted to. The guy can’t get enough of the guitar, which is why it’s so surprising that he followed up his best work, Wander This World, with a mellow gospel-rock album called Turn Around that suffers from a deficit of guitar work. He also trades his gritty, soul-filled growl for a falsetto a lot of the time. Maybe his conversion to blues-flavored pop a la John Mayer has something to do with why he can’t stop singing about God these days. Here’s hoping his stage show (which comes to Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on Friday, September 29) hasn’t found God, too.
José González is a one-man World Music movement: a Swedish singer-songwriter of Argentinian descent who plays classical guitar in the Spanish tradition and is much loved by the British record-buying public. Working his debut album, Veneer, which was released three years ago in Europe, González introduced his finger-picking dexterity to Texas audiences with a recent performance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and he comes to Limelight (2718 N. St. Mary’s) on Friday, September 29. Between Spoon and González, it’ll be a good night for live music on North St. Mary’s.