Music

Jeff Lang: Prepare Me Well

The Australian slide guitar whiz makes a long overdue US debut and ZING it is tasty!


Jeff Lang

Prepare Me Well

Subtitle: An Introduction to Jeff Lang
Label: Telarc
US Release Date: 2006-06-27
UK Release Date: 2006-06-26
Amazon
iTunes

Page one of the sports page this morning is all about how other countries are starting to kick American butt in basketball. We invented the game -- and in 1972 the Soviets cheated us out of the gold medal that was rightfully ours -- but the world has now caught up. Greece kicked our ass, apparently, because they love hoops enough to play it really well.

Ditto for American music sometimes. Prepare Me Well is the U.S. debut of slide guitarist and singer Jeff Lang, an Australian steeped in the American mojo of blues and country -- and whose music will turn your head round and round until you wonder if we still do it as well as our imitators.

A compilation of tracks from ten years of albums released in Australia, Prepare Me Well kicks a whole variety of asses. From traditional roots country music that evokes Ireland as much as the Appalachians (the opener, "The Save") to strongly plugged-in workouts that combine Dylan with high voltage slide mastery ("Too Easy to Kill"), this is a statement that should be hard to ignore. Guitar fans will take note because Mr. Lang can RIP; alt-country fans will sense a new talent who understands how tradition merges with indie-rock; and the Starbucks crowd should find a guy who deeply understands how to blend atmosphere and substance ("Mr. God"). Me -- I'm just plain old knocked-out.

The risk with compilation albums, of course, is a kind of musical schizophrenia -- a sense that the disc doesn't hold together and imprint itself in a singular way. That is noted here, but also overcome. For all the diversity of sounds on Prepare Me Well, there is a useful through-line -- Mr. Lang's serious talent on guitar. On a tune like "Bateman's Boy", the spotlight is plainly on acoustic bottleneck playing as it accompanies Mr. Lang's pleasant, breathy storytelling. One tune later on "Gina", Mr. Lang is powering a ballad with hollow-bodied electric juice and sweet pedal-steel color. "Everything is Still" finds him coloring with National Guitar and steel. All of it sounds authentic, rootsy, awesome.

Is it somewhat jarring that, on "Everything is Still", the Australian sings, "Fredericksburg's not too far away / Heading down I-95"? A little, but this is no more odd than other tunes that seem to reference the big, rough continent on which he was born in a U.S. language. Most of the tunes are about the ultimate American topic: movement and road. And today that subject might as well belong to anyone, certainly to an up-and-comer who has traveled all over opening for heroes like Albert Collins.

In the end, of course, our great American music transcends nationality -- a fact proven by the mere existence of Jeff Lang. And as you listen to a brilliant song like "Rain on Troy", you feel the power of our blues and folk music wash back over us after having bounced off a genuine talent. "Rain on Troy" sounds like its own terrific amalgam -- a folk-ish texture carrying a plaintive melody but with a rhythm feel from Celtic music and guitar textures of the American south. The words -- a lament for being in middle of nowhere without someone who matters -- show literary skill and a keen nose for what works in a song: "There a rose growing through my chest / My roots have been ripped by the race I've run".

Prepare Me Well veers toward anonymity at times -- in a pleasant acoustic folkiness that requires that you pay attention. You put it on in the background, while you're making dinner, while you entertain folks over Pinot Grigio, you're going to miss it. I encourage you: turn it up even though it's mostly a quiet album. Let the strings really bend around your ear. Let Mr. Lang's voice -- reedy but full of rough-edged character -- carry through the whole house. You got to listen, but it will be worth it.

A little bit Chris Whitley, and dash of Jeff Buckley, plenty of Robert Johnson and maybe Jerry Douglas -- all that's gone into Jeff Lang. But what comes out -- as with any smart and talented artist -- is something wholly his own. Now, a decade or so into an impressive career, here it is for a U.S. audience.

Come and get it, then we'll see what's next.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.