The blues is alright and so is Jesus.
Jonny Lang is coming to Lake Tahoe to deliver his unique blues-based gospel rock and roll.
When he was a teenage sensation known as “Kid Jonny Lang,” the guitarist was considered a savior to devout fans of blues music, a preserver who could swim across the mainstream and carry on in the place of the departed Stevie Ray Vaughan. And for a while, he did. But as he grew older, his music changed.
And it was still good.
However, blues purists were taken aback.
“I haven’t felt too remorseful about departing from straight-up blues, even though there’s been a lot of flak for it,” Lang told this writer before a previous Tahoe appearance. “I think there are a lot of people who’d love me to remake the “Lie To Me” album over and over again.
“No, I don’t feel bad about it because it’s been a natural progression. I haven’t tried to make changes or force anything. It’s just kind of happened, and I’m proud of that and secure with it.”
Lang’s evolution did not hurt him with mainstream audiences. His 2007 album, “Turn Around,” won a Blues Grammy and was No. 1 on the Christian music chart. And his fifth studio album, 2013’s “Fight for My Soul,” also hit No. 1 on the Christian chart. In between those albums, Lang released “Live at the Ryman,” which celebrates he and his band’s incredible live performance. His latest album, “Signs,” was released in 2017. It has been in the Top 50 on the Roots Music Report’ Blues Album chart for an amazing 54 weeks.
Lang’s performance at MontBleu at Lake Tahoe on Saturday, Dec. 1, is part of a weeklong West Coast run of shows. In the spring he will tour Europe with the biggest show being April 6: Rockin’ the Blues, An Evening of Guitar Heavy Blues Rock in London with Lang, Walter Trout and Kris Barras.
Lang grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, in a house that played Motown and soul music. At the age of 12, he was inspired when he attended a concert by the Medicine Blues Band. His father bought him an electric guitar.
“I started taking lessons from the guitar player from that band, Ted Larson, and joined their band as the lead singer shortly after that, and then started playing guitar a bit and started getting a little better,” Lang said. “That’s how it started. As far as guitar players go, B.B. King, Albert Collins and Albert King are probably my three biggest influences.”
Lang also mentioned Louisiana’s Tab Benoit, who inspired his guitar style. They both use semi-hollow Telecasters.
Lang offered advice to up-and-coming guitarists.
“Don’t forget the reasons why you started playing. I’ll ask, ‘What was the reason you started?’Usually they say, ‘Because I love to play.’ It’s real easy to get distracted with peripheral things. When you’re young you feel like you’re being carried a little bit and the weight of responsibilities, business and otherwise, don’t jar you as much. You are just living a dream.
“Somewhere down the line, added pressures will hit you. It’s really easy to become disenchanted and the infatuation stage runs its course. It’s like you have to decide to remember I really do love this and decide to keep yourself inspired.”
Jonny Lang in the West
Nov. 30 – Uptown Theatre, Napa
Saturday, Dec. 1 – MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa; 8 p.m., tickets $35-$55 LINKDec. 2 – Agoura Hills, Canyon, California
Dec. 4 – Belly Up, Solana Beach, California
Dec. 6-7 – Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, California
Dec. 8 – Big Bear Lake, The Cave, Big Bear Lake, California
ABOUT Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.