Improbably seasoned

Kid Jonny Lang didn’t sound like a kid

Jonny Lang
  • Jonny Lang

Blues music is appreciated even in the most un-blues-like corners of the world. North Dakota, for example. It may be possible to trace the radiation of that music into such desolate territory back to a couple of white electric blues harmonica players from Chicago who made it big during the 1960s. Their names were Paul Butterfield and Charley Musselwhite, and along with guitarist Michael Bloomfield, they encouraged the consumption of roots music far and wide throughout middle-America, enough so that a Fargo teen got a taste of it decades later. By the age of 12, Jon Gordon Langseth Jr. could find his way around on an electric guitar. As the story goes, he took lessons from the one blues player in Fargo, who later helped him launch a band. They called him Kid Jonny Lang at first.

By the age of 14 Langseth had joined a small but growing population. As the blues guitarist Walter Trout once told me, “It seems that in every town we play now, there’s some new teenage guitar genius.”

But Kid Jonny didn’t sound like a kid. Even then, Lang sang with a voice that was improbably seasoned. Lie to Me, recorded when he was only 15, sold in the platinum figures. By 17, Lang had been Grammy-nominated. Much has been made of the child prodigy’s eventual conversion to Christianity as an adult, although very little of that surfaces in his music. More apparent is Lang’s slow turning away from the electric blues bed-of-nails. At 37, with a large chunk of road time already behind him, Lang’s sound embraces funk and soul and R&B. Yes, he still rips on older material such as “Last Man Standing,” but over the years, his music accumen has gone up and his voice has seasoned well.

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