Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

Mercy Me, Audio Adrenaline and new artist Phil Wickham are in concert on November 3 at the Louisville Palace. It will mark Audio Adrenaline's final Louisville concert appearance, as the band literally says Adios (which is also the name of their new greatest hits CD).

At press time, there were still tickets available. The last time Mercy Me played at the Palace the show sold out, so if you want to go, buy your tickets now. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets and online at Ticketmaster.com.

Jonny Lang brings his amazing guitar prowess to the Kentucky Center For the Arts on November 10. Lang's new CD Turn Around, marks an artistic beginning. Steven Curtis Chapman, who co-wrote on the new CD, told Chrsitianmusic.suite101.com, "I'm very honored to have had the privilege of writing with Jonny for this record and our friendship has shown me that he's a man that's passionate about his faith as a Christian and is committed to reflecting that in his music. This is an amazing record from an amazing artist."

Lang has not been known as a "Christian" artist in the past, of course. As a matter of fact, he was far from it, as he struggled with various addictions and even witchcraft. However, he says he had a supernatural experience with God and was miraculously healed from those addictions. Now he has a new outlook on life.

His singing and guitar playing stamped him as an amazing blues talent. His 1997 debut, Lie To Me, jumped to the top of the new artist album charts and critics marveled at the poise and maturity the 16-year-old artist displayed.

Lang has been on the road a lot since the Lie To Me release, touring with Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, B.B. King and Blues Traveler, as well as headlining around the World.

On Wander This World, Lang expanded his foundation of blues into R&B, rock and ballads. "The blues had a baby and they called it rock & roll," Lang said, quoting Muddy Waters with his characteristic, easygoing laugh. The album smokes from the opening, funky track, "Still Rainin'," through the lilting waltz "Leaving To Stay," Lang's own heartfelt ballad "Breakin' Me," and the dark, moody acoustic lament, "The Levee."

"Musically, I wanted to explore my songwriting, branching out into my music. I've been playing blues since I started and I wanted to go in more of a soul, R&B direction," Lang said. "The blues was such a great place for me to start, with Robert Johnson, Albert Collins, B.B. King, Freddie King and all those guys. It's where it all started which makes it a really good well that you can always draw from."

"I think (Wander This World) definitely bridges the generation gap," Lang said. "People who come to our concerts range from people my age to my grandfather's age. I love seeing the crowd at the front of the stage, eyes closed and shaking their heads. That's the most magical thing about it."

"Ever since I can remember I've wanted to be involved in music," said Lang, "playing it, being around it, anything. I'd be happy playing on a street corner, probably happier in a lot of ways just because there are so many stresses that go along with selling a lot of albums."

Ex-band-mate and teacher Ted Larsen exposed Jonny to the blues. "When I started playing guitar, Ted said 'Just plug your cord straight into your amp and don't go through any pedals'," Lang recalled. "'You don't need that stuff.' As time went on, I used some effects, but I've slimmed it down a lot. It's a simple kind of full and dirty sound."

Despite his age, Lang has paid his dues having played hundreds of regional gigs as Jonny Lang & The Big Bang. "When we moved to Minneapolis from Castelton, North Dakota we thought we were hot stuff," Lang recalled. "Then we saw a band called Mambo's Combo, who were the best musicians I had seen up to that point. We looked at each other and said 'We suck.' The funk scene got under my skin in a good way."

Within months, Lang was one of the hottest regional acts. His independent release Smokin sold over 25,000 copies, grabbing the attention of major labels, including A&M. Lie To Me was released on January 28, 1997, debuting at #1 on Billboard's New Artist chart. The acclaim rolled in, from rave reviews to a listing in Newsweek's Century Club of the 100 Americans expected to be influential in the next millennium. He swept the category for Best New Guitarist in Guitar magazine's reader's poll and made a cameo in the film Blues Brothers 2000 performing "634-5789" with Wilson Pickett and Eddie Floyd. In 1997, he also appeared at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York with Jeff Beck and filmed an hour-long Disney Channel In Concert special.

B.B. King was impressed enough to invite Lang on stage to trade a few choruses. Lang, who shares King's technique of answering his own vocals with short bursts of guitar fills, learned something just from standing on the same stage with King. "He's such a great influence," said Lang. "We toured together for a month and he invited me up on stage to jam. We had a blast." B.B return the compliment in the Los Angeles Times, "Jonny Lang's 16, so he's got youth and talent with it. When I was young, I didn't play like I do today. So these kids are starting at the height that I've reached. Think what they might do over time."

So does Lang's new lease on life translate into his live show? My guess is that it probably does. I'll be there on the 10th to see for myself. Either way, I guarantee there will be some "smokin'" guitar in the house.

Tickets for the show are available at all Ticketmaster outlets and online at Ticketmaster.com.

And yes, last month's Donald Miller appearance at Southeast Christian Church was cancelled at the last minute. I'm not sure what happened, but I know several folks I talked to were bummed about it. I was! Oh well, sorry if I got your hopes up here as well. I'll keep you posted if I find out he's back in town any time soon.