What a difference a few years makes. Jeff Lang’s 1998 recording Cedar Grove
crossed my desk a few years ago, sporting Mr. Lang with shoulder-length hair and an eclectic, if rough, set of original tunes that dissect the American roots vernacular. All this and Lang is Australian. Cedar Grove
was populated with intelligently composed lyrics and guitar parts, the latter showcasing Jeff Lang’s supreme grasp of the bottleneck philosophy.
Now, several intervening albums later, Everything is Still emerges with Lang an evolved songwriter and singer. His voice, while very fine has improved to exceptional on this recording, as well as his songwriting—lyrically and musically. Everything is Still is a bit of a dark ride, inhabited by songs of excess, loss, and growth...
...that big feeling that carries you on as it flows and we’ve been reeling from those morning body blows. And I’ve been stealing every second that I can to find that big feeling from which I ran...
"Big Feeling" opens this disc with Lang’s Michael Hedges-influenced percussive acoustic guitar. The disc then gives away to a cool slide groove supplemented by Angus Diggs’ superb stream-of-consciousness drumming on "Can’t Raise My Head." This song demonstrates Lang’s effortless combination of acoustic and electric slide guitar parts. Lang provides solo filet mignon from his lap steel and dobro, cooked rare. He laments lost love:
...I’ve got your picture here, I can’t meet its stare. My open chest is bare, jawbone full of lead, I can’t see your there, I can’t raise my head...
"London" is perhaps the most intricate piece, with Lang insinuating chords in a single note. His playing is dense with ideas, foreshadowing his triumphant interpretation of "Sweet Virginia" on Exile on Blues Street . The guitarist never ceases to surprise and delight with his virtuosity, always tastefully displayed.
Lang’s slide guitar is aggressive and pungent with humidly fresh ideas. Which brings me to the point. For some reason there are no longer mainstream guitar gods. I offer that the end came with grunge music and the trend continues today. Jeff Lang flies in the face of this trend by not merely playing some of the best guitar around, but also writing provocative songs as vehicles for that guitar playing. Jeff Lang is a talent in very short supply.
For more information, see Jeff Lang and Shock Records .