Disturbed folk and dislocated blues, six twisted strings and a penchant for telling a story, this is Jeff Lang. Over the past 20 years, via a plethora of solo, live and collaborative releases, Lang has refused to be pigeonholed. He’s constantly reinventing his music, and as such has risen to the top of the roots music pile in Australia.
His latest, Carried In Mind, “A batch of brand-new, reconditioned, rust-removed, freshly ventilated, instinct-driven musical conversations” is the high-water mark thus far, yet another chapter in the anthology of Lang’s songwriting life. “It seems these days I have to make the time to write, which is a change from how things used to be,” he muses on how Carried In Mind began to come together.
“There seems to be a time where I feel, almost, an itch to record, and so I can kind of gauge it off that; there’s just an internal drive at a certain point where I feel like, ‘God, I really need to do something’… it’s almost like you are looking for a new record to listen to and you can’t find it anywhere, and you realise it’s one you’ve got to make yourself.”
Carried In Mind came together in a very ‘live’ sense, Lang and long-time cohorts Grant Cummerford (bass) and Danny McKenna (drums) pressing record after only hearing the basic tracks as MP3s and rehearsing once or twice. “It results in a beautifully spontaneous and spur-of-the-moment kind of session,” McKenna noted to me recently, something with which Lang concurs.
“Yeah, it’s pretty important, and it’s down to the quality of the players I think,” he says on this spontaneity. “Trusting them and picking people that you’ve got there because of how they think on their instrument and how quick on their feet you’ll know they’ll be, and their capacity to lean on their instinct and come up with something that’ll surprise and excite you.”
Another addition this time around is the consummate pedal steel playing of Garrett Costigan; it’s this little bit extra which really seems to lift Carried In Mind, giving it a warm, textured underbelly. “I’ve been wanting to have a project where I could pull him into the fray for a while,” Lang smiles. “So here, there were a number of songs where I could really hear him fitting in and enhancing it a great deal, so it was pretty easy from there.”
Samuel J. Fell
Carried In Mind is available now through ABC Music / Universal