A full decade removed from being a blues-rock wünderkind with technical chops that overshadowed his often lightweight content, Jonny Lang, all of 25 years old, is still struggling to fulfill his early potential. With 2003’s overproduced, scattershot Long Time Coming, Lang began to move away from the modern blues of his first two albums and into Creed’s territory of portentous, spiritually-inspired arena rock, and his latest offering, Turn Around, only magnifies the problems of its predecessor. The album’s production by Ron Fair is all over the place, ranging from the impotent Maroon 5 funk of “Bump In The Road” to the old-timey Southern gospel of “That Great Day.”
The straightforward gospel numbers like “On My Feet Again” and “Don’t Stop For Anything” are generally the most successful from a production standpoint, positioning Lang as the director of the 13-strong “Jonny Lang Thankful Choir.” Since he’s put down his guitar for most of the album, Lang’s churchy vocals are the primary focus on Turn Around, and while his passion and his sincerity are never in question, the album’s few moments of restraint—“Don’t Stop For Anything” showcases the kind of full-bodied falsetto Justin Timberlake wishes he actually had—suggest that Lang could yet develop into a sensitive interpretive singer. Unfortunately, the bulk of Turn Around is marred by Lang’s histrionic, mealy-mouthed soulman put-on.
Lang’s troubling lack of subtlety as a vocalist is matched by the didactic The Purpose-Driven Life platitudes that constitute most of his songs. Lead single “One Person At A Time,” for instance, is a rote perils-of-fame exercise which concludes with the affirmation that Lang will have fulfilled his purpose if his message reaches just “one set of ears.” Later, “On My Feet Again” should draw a few laughs from anyone familiar with the work of Faith+1. Lang’s conviction on these songs is certainly admirable, but for Turn Around to represent a viable artistic direction, it’s crucial for Lang to develop a more effective and less affected way of communicating his message of redemption. As is, Lang suffers from Reverse Killers Syndrome on Turn Around: he’s obviously a soldier, but his soul isn’t all that convincing.