On "Carried in Mind" the trademark qualities of Jeff Lang's playing resonate stronger than ever, displaying not only a guitarist of gob-smacking talent, but a songwriter of the highest order. Each protagonist draws us into their world, leaving us wondering what will happen when the song ends, and what might have transpired just before. We witness grand acts of cowardice present in songs like 'Frightened Fool' alongside the humble stoicism seen in 'Mama, Why You Holding Back Now?'. The interplay of temptation, resistance and surrender dances just as wildly around vast landscapes and domestic environments, moving from the country's red centre to a lover's bedroom. The blood, fear and velocity of songs like 'Running By the Rock' are well met by the cool quiet of 'Fisherman's Farewell'. Sounding as ancient as a traditional folk ballad, 'Newbridge' details a heartbreaking act of matricide, in which Lang returns strikingly to singing in the female voice, showing all too well how aware he is of the ironies and often untold violence of this world. It's a stark juxtaposition with the tender lullaby 'Way past Midnight', which soothes us after the epic journey that is Carried In Mind.
As with most of Lang's collection, it was recorded live in the studio, with long time musical partners in crime Grant Cummerford (bass) and Danny McKenna (drums). The addition of Garrett Costigan on pedal steel feels so natural that one might mistake his presence on earlier albums. Alison Ferrier's brief appearance singing backing vocals on the track she co-wrote with Lang breathes harmony and stillness into the album, which is ripe with the rhythms of work, life, and loving.
Of his new recording, Lang says, '...(this is) a batch of brand-new, reconditioned, rust-removed, freshly ventilated, instinct-driven musical conversations between sleep-deprived, cheaply-clothed, (mostly) freshly-shaven, (partially) clean-living, flinty-eyed gentlemen wielding precision instruments with all due care and respect.
The title refers to the kind of hauntings that prey on everyday people, growing from common stuff, things that seemed innocuous at the time: a half-heard comment that stays with you after most other events from that night in that bar have sunk back into the blotting paper; words that ricochet between your memory and the paranoid voices in your head, back-and-forth, over-and-over, until they've spun around enough to have mutated into something possibly more sinister; something more laden with secret meanings than you might have a right to speculate on. The title deals with memories. As do many of the songs, in their own way.
Of the limited edition disc that will be released alongside the album, he continues, 'I thought it might be interesting for people who enjoy Carried In Mind to hear some of the songs in a different setting, stripped back to a single instrument for example, or even done in a different style.'. This is why 'Running By the Rock' appears backed only by a fan-driven harmonium, hanging in time and space, and why 'Jack-A-Roe' is given an acoustic treatment with lap steel to contrast with the band arrangement on the album.
"Seeing Jeff Lang was like being at church for three hours - a totally sacred event. He's the man as far as I'm concerned."
"Australia's best roots-music artisan."
"Psychedelic, Sahara-swept solos, distorted natural harmonics and eye-poppingly virtuosic lap steel work. This is the real deal, folks."
"There's the sparseness of a desert soul and the shadows of the city falling over the strings and weaving through the harmonies"
Warwick McFadyen, Sunday Age
"Often hard and raw, sometimes sweet and melodic, and always innovative."
"In a world where music is diluted by money and plasticine let’s give thanks that there are still people like Jeff Lang out there… he paints pictures in sound"
"Anyone who sees and hears him becomes an instant fan."
Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald
"A guitarist-singer-songwriter of the very highest calibre."
Tony Hillier, Rhythms
"There are certain musicians who are so gifted, so astonishingly talented, so plugged into Something Bigger than we can imagine when they make music ... I witnessed a show a couple of weekends ago that made me want to include Jeff Lang in that company."
"He explores sonorities as eclectic as they are stunning...Lang's only reference point is himself, a unique singer-songwriter-guitarist who follows his own path."
Le Soleil, Quebec.
"Australian guitarist Jeff Lang weaves remarkably skilled blues guitar around his songs, effortlessly playing complicated parts but never at the expense of the songs themselves."
The Onion, Madison WI
"Is he...rock...blues...country...folk...from Mars? No, actually he's all of the above - if not quite extraterrestrial - and a lot more...a one of a kind."