Everything Is Still
Year of Release: 2001
Cat. Number: JL9801CD Release Status: Available
Songs written by Jeff Lang
Produced by Kerryn Tolhurst
Recorded and mixed by Chris Thomson
Mike Daly – The Age
Lang has long since paid his dues as one of our most adventurous folk-blues guitarists, but this genre-spanning album underscores his credentials as a singer-songwriter.
Produced by Kerryn Tolhurst (ex-Dingoes) and backed by his touring mate, Angus Diggs, on drums and “random” percussion, it’s acoustic intimacy provides perfect settings for Lang’s thoughtful original songs and his masterly guitar playing – understated yet loaded with emotion.
Pride of place belongs to the gentle ballad “Gina”, the scintillating slide work on the title track and “Can’t Raise My Head”.
Bruce Elder – Sydney Morning Herald
Another great Australian guitarist shows off his virtuosity “Victorian-born Jeff Lang’s modus operandi is a dazzling, potently emotional, style of acoustic blues – lots of bent notes and wailing bottleneck technique – which is very reminiscent of early Ry Cooder and Chris Whitley. If he’d been born in Galveston rather than Geelong he’d be a well-known and widely respected international figure by now.
In Australia there is a market for this music but it is just not big enough to sustain a career or ensure a decent living. So, like blues guitar virtuoso Dave Hole, Jeff Lang spends most of the time touring Europe and North America where he has built up a committed following. This is globalisation by necessity. Fortunately he is good enough to guarantee that anyone who sees and hears him becomes an instant fan.
This is music which hovers somewhere between back porch acoustic blues and, for want of a better term, Americana. Yet to describe Lang by narrow genre is to underestimate his particular talent. He knows how to take an acoustic guitar, a lap steel guitar and a dobro and turn them into highly individualistic instruments. He understands, with great sensitivity, the importance of light and shade and the subtle dynamics of a song. Thus when he sings “London” (the unquestioned highlight on this album) he starts with a suitably low key melancholia (perfect for a song about lost love and loneliness) and slowly the guitar, accompanied by some very tasteful drumming from Angus Diggs, builds and builds until the listener is literally showered with bright guitar notes from a spectacular and lightning-fast solo. This is Lang at his best. An emotional song backed by great guitar virtuosity.
Lang secret is simple. He writes good songs, his vocals are more than adequate and his guitar playing is mind-boggling. It does not matter whether he is singing in a slow moody mode (“The Point”, “Some Memories Never Die”), nudging towards the outer edges of down-home blues on “Everything Is Still” or singing so low key you could mistake him for a folkie (“Between the Lines”) or singing about Newcastle, Swansea and Belmont on “Trainwreck 49″, the end result is an album of songs deeply felt and perfectly complemented by great guitar playing. Lang knows exactly how to tease a range of emotions from his instrument.”
Jeff Apter – Rolling Stone
While such locals as the John Butler Trio and Matt Walker hog radio airplay and collect all the ARIAs (greedy buggers) Melbourne singer-strummer Jeff Lang remains the authentic roots-music article, with a reputation that stretches from New York to Newtown.
On his seventh long-player, Lang gets pretty much naked, stripping the sound right back to his supple voice, deftly plucked steel guitar (which at times sounds more like shattering glass), and the sparest of backings. It”s an album of such bluesy, windswept intimacy that you can just about picture the tumbleweeds – even role model Chris Whitley would be hard pressed to better it. And when Lang breaks out with a supernova solo – check out the freefalling “London” – or spins a mesmerising tale of tough love on “Gina”, it’s a no-brainer to figure out why he’s such a world-ranked singer-songwriter.”
Experience counts for a lot in music as well as life. My first impression of Jeff Lang’s latest release “Everything Is Still” was that here is a musician with plenty of skill and originality. His background firmly established with legendary Australian blues group Chain, this man does just play acoustic guitar, he paints pictures in sound. Aghast at the absence of a bass player at first listen I soon discovered that the large space Lang’s guitar occupies more than makes up for the lack of low end.
From the opening cut “Big Feeling” drummer Angus Diggs produces some tribal-like skins that perfectly complement Jeff’s superb voice and strings. Words cannot adequately describe the slide guitar on “London”, it’s dynamics and subtle complexity an excellent lesson for any aspiring blues or folk player. Jeff’s strength is his transcending style that is not easily categorised. His influences, wide and varied, bring a multitude of effects into his playing and I think that in this case it works very well. My favourite song on the album is undoubtedly “No Good Answers”, a pseudo blues song that rips and dives headlong into a distorted finale of droning sonic decay. Lyrics such as “Done no time with drinking but I know why many men do..” made me feel like cracking a Jameson bottle and toating Jeff for his excellent structure.
Drinking aside, the feel of this LP is uniquely Australian. The fresh, experienced song writing shows depth and thoughtful production. Other highlights include “Gina” (once again, unbelievable playing) “Release” and the eclectic “Some Memories Never Die”, all of the songs on this release have their own individual character and deserve equal listening.
Overall this is an album that will reside in my collection without gathering dust. If you are familiar with his previous work I think that you will enjoy this LP. If you are not then I suggest that you check it out, for the simple fact that in a world where music is diluted by money and plasticine there are still people like Jeff Lang out there writing real songs that are enjoyable to listen to.”
This is a brilliant, ball-tearer of an album – undoubtedly one of the best domestic releases of recent years and one that anoints Jeff Lang as a guitarist-singer-songwriter of the very highest caliber. Certainly Everything Is Still, expertly produced by ex-Dingoes frontman Kerryn Tolhurst, has been putting this reviewer’s CD player through it’s paces since the advance copy hit my desk a couple of weeks ago.
The set sounds better with each hearing, which speaks volumes for the quality of the songs – all originals – and the standard of the playing and singing. Everything Is Still is a feast for the ear, with huge splashes of colour, light and shade. Sharp contrasts sit side by side in each song, yet with no hint of incongruity. Simultaneously brutal and beautiful, hard-hitting and haunting, Lang’s mini-masterpieces take the listener up to emotional, rocky peaks; then gently down to tranquil valleys. We have come to expect consumate guitar craft from Jeff Lang but her his playing hits the mark like never before – one minute he’s all shimmering fury, fat chords immersed in Neil Young “Dead Man”-like fuzz, the next he’s bending and sustaining blue notes to breaking point.
Drummer Angus Diggs matches Lang’s every mood and nuance, the duo inviting comparison with those impressive American combinations David Lindley & Wall Ingram and Ry & Joachim Cooder. The wall of sound they create in “Can’t Raise My Head” is comparable to that put out by the Backsliders. Diggs enhances the potency of “London”, which features a killer slide break, by simply putting down his sticks.
On other tracks a cornucopia of unusual percussion instruments – “junk” says Lang on the sleeve notes – complements the guitarists ingenuity.Contrary to what your ears might tell you, only one guitar is featured on each song (though invariably amped-up). The vocals were cut live, a factor that which has obviously helped consolidate the honesty of the recording. Lang’s voice, which has become a dynamic tool in it’s own right in recent years, is now capable of conveying impressive emotional depth.
The twin spheres of the songwriter’s influences are evident. The title track itself evokes the America of Ry Cooder’s “Paris Texas”; “Trainwreck 49”, with it’s references to Newcastle and suburbs, reeks of Central Coast, New South Wales. The showpiece ballad, “Gina”, doesn’t have an obvious geographical location. The opening track, “Big Feeling”, has a delightful if all-too-brief Celtic influence. “Some Memories Never Die”, a major-tuned slide song which brings the set to a dramatic conclusion, is akin to a road movie of the human heart.
Like Richard Thompson, a musician whose work he admires greatly, and the great Irish singer Paul Brady, Lang is a folkie at heart but with rock’n’roll attitude. This huge dynamic range has allowed him to push the parameters of his craft.
The Canberra Times
No guitarist will fail to be awestruck by the imagination, finesse, power and feeling in Jeff’s playing on his new album, “Everything Is Still”. But this is not an album for guitarists. It’s an album of powerful and evocative songs, sung and played with passion, that will entrance anybody with an ear for great music.
Accompanied only by Angus Diggs on drums, the album was essentially recorded live, with a minimum of overdubs. Lang’s style definitely comes from the blues, but he is clearly unafraid to incorporate elements of anything that moves him: country, folk, even the spaciousness of Pink Floyd.
Lang’s phenomenal slide guitar playing is always in the service of the music, whether providing the dissonant, grinding blues introduction to “Can’t Raise My Head”, or the sweet country licks in “No Good Answers”. His intricate, lyrical slide playing on “London” is a tour de force; Ry Cooder should be very afraid. For someone usually referred to only in terms of his guitar playing, Lang is one hell of a singer and songwriter.
From the upbeat country of “Big Feeling”, reminiscent of Chris Whitley, to the melancholy of “Gina”, Lang displays a talent for evocative lyrical imagery and melodies that get right under your skin. He has an offhand singing style that perfectly suits songs like the dark southern rock of “Trainwreck 49”, but he can also bring just the right intensity to songs like “Between The Lines”.
For me the highlight is the closer “Some Memories Never Die”. Over some sparse, achingly beautiful acoustic slide guitar, Lang sings of the echoes of past horrors, like the London blitz, in a way that sneaks up on you. The plaintive chorus is just the icing on the cake. A superb album.
Queensland-based (sic) Jeff Lang keeps things equally stripped back on Everything is Still, accompanied mostly by his own guitar and drummer Angus Diggs. The album was cut mostly live and unadorned. It’s one of those recordings that makes a nonsense of the multi-track obsession most bands have these days.
Just as it does Rodney Crowell a disservice to label him as “country”, Lang shouldn’t be typecast as “blues”, “folk” or “guitar whiz” either. He is a phenomenal guitar player but he is a songwriter first, drawing on the same sources that nourish the work of artists from Bob Dylan to Ben Harper. For starters, check out the deeply emotional tale of small-town heartbreak, “Gina”, a song that might have been written 30 years ago or yesterday. Lang’s name is getting around thanks to the power of his live performances, but we should be singing his praises from the rooftops.
Certainly his integrity, passion and extraordinary musicianship will reward those who seek him out.
HD – Chart Magazine – Canada
First, write some damn fine, rootsy story-songs and confessionals that easily locate the home truth.
Smother the rocky ones in greasy, funky, groove-ass, electric slide slop.
Color the folky ones with some evocative, deeply soulful acoustic slide.
Play ’em as if you’re a male Bonnie Raitt – with some serious balls and flawless chops – but twice as speedy and energetic.
Play that thang so it cuts like a pearl-handled straight razor: Fast, clean, shiny and sharp, but always in service of the song.
You’re Jeff Lang … the new Slide Guitar King Of The World.”
Jennifer Hanson – Rambles Cultural Arts Magazine, USA
Jeff Lang defies classification. His music might come closest to the blues, but his version of the blues is far removed from both the traditional and electric varieties. Lang uses slide and unusually shaped guitars to create musical atmospheres, sometimes stormy with furious strumming, sometimes misty with washes of sound. For a beat, he stomps time on a box with his foot. He can wail above the storm of sound he creates, or whisper in the spaces between the notes.
Then there are the songs he writes, which are filled with striking images and intriguing themes. “Big Feeling,” this album’s opening track, is somewhat atypical for Lang in its lyrical and melodic directness. It’s as close as Lang will ever get to a pop song, featuring a guitar riff that mimics an electric keyboard. Another relatively straightforward song is “London,” an exhilarating love song. But then there are numbers like the haunting “Some Memories Never Die” and “Release,” which inexorably draw the listener into their worlds, line by line.
Lang doesn’t exactly sing the blues here; it’s a harder-to-define sense of troubled emotions and unease. Perhaps appropriately, these songs insinuate themselves into the listener’s thoughts and refuse to leave, even long after the notes have died away. Then there is “No Good Answers,” which has the timeless simplicity of a traditional blues song. Lang is an effective one-man band but on this album he is joined by Angus Diggs on percussion. It can be difficult to play percussion for a guitarist who is accustomed to being his own rhythm section, but Diggs does a good job of filling in around Lang’s guitar. His percussion is never superfluous and he doesn’t get in Lang’s way.
Jeff Lang has toured extensively in North America during the past few years, no doubt a daunting proposition for a musician from Down Under. As one who has been lucky enough to see him live a number of times, I know that his live performances are amazing and never fail to win over new fans. The one shame is that more of his albums are not easily available in the States; only Cedar Grove has been released in the U.S. so far. Everything Is Still is on a Canadian label. Still, this music is worth any effort expended to get it. Jeff Lang is unique and his musical world, once experienced, is unforgettable.