Jonny Lang has a message for you. Sure, he’s been in touch before, speaking often with his guitar in the language of deep blues and searing rock & roll. But Turn Around is different. The guitar is still there, whispering sometimes, occasionally even screaming. Now, though, it’s just one voice in a chorus of sounds – the tight band, the passionate singing, and lyrics that conjure beauty as well as pain and speak the truth, all at the same time. The Grammy winning, former prodigy instrumentalist, who topped the Billboard New Artist chart with his first album at age 15, stands now as a mature creative force, made more sensitive yet also toughened by life’s adventures. He’s learned what it means to rise above hard times and to find meaning where chaos seemed to rule. These insights, and the emotions they unleash, makes Turn Around the pivotal album of Jonny Lang’s career to date – a passage that links the triumphs of his past to the promise of his future. A soul-stirring organ, played by Grammy-winning producer Shannon Sanders, forecasts the surge of music that follows on Turn Around: the stomping funk of “Bump in the Road,” the startling climax that closes “The Other Side of the Fence,” the electrifying vocal exchanges with Michael McDonald on “Thankful,” and on the opposite extreme, the work-gang chant that drives “Turn Around” and the profound intimacy of “Only a Man” … Turn Around is all of this and more, a tumble of musical colors that dazzle and soothe. And in the end, they achieve coherence through the meaning that Lang conveys so urgently.
Ryan Shaw was born in Decatur, Georgia and grew up in a deeply religious Pentecostal family. He began singing in church at the age of five and later formed a family group with his four brothers called the Shaw Boys. "We didn't listen to secular or pop music either in or out of our house," he explains. "So my early musical influences are all from the gospel world—singers like Darryl Coley, Keith Brooks, James Moore, and the Pace Sisters." After briefly attending Georgia State University, Ryan successfully auditioned for the gospel musical A Good Man Is Hard to Find (Part II). In 1998, he joined the cast of I Know I've Been Changed, written and directed by Tyler Perry (Diary of a Mad Black Woman). Ryan came to New York with this production and performed to sold-out crowds at the Beacon Theater. After the closing of I Know I've Been Changed, Ryan joined the resident cast of the Motown Café on West 57th Street where he performed Detroit soul favorites by the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye.
The more Ryan heard of the sounds of the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies, the more aware he became of the missing ingredients in contemporary music. "I'm into chords, melodies, lyrics, arrangements - I'm into music in all its aspects. It seems like the late Eighties were the last time we really had all these elements in Black music, with artists like Anita Baker and Luther Vandross. By the mid-Nineties, we were down to two chords and a drum loop."
In 2004 Ryan was recruited into the Fabulous Soul Shakers, a vocal group specializing in classic soul and doo-wop. Johnny Gale, the group's guitarist, is a New York music veteran who's worked with everyone from Hank Ballard to the Ramones. Deeply impressed by Ryan's talent, Johnny urged his old friend Jimmy Bralower to check him out. As a percussionist and drum programmer, Jimmy was among the city's most in-demand session players, having worked with superstars like Madonna, Peter Gabriel, and Steve Winwood. One night in 2006, Bralower came down to hear Ryan sing at a small Lower East Side club...and was blown away by what he heard. He and Johnny Gale invited Ryan back to Jimmy's basement studio on Long Island where they quickly cut four of Ryan's featured numbers with the Soul Shakers including "Do the 45" and "I Found a Love."