By David Werther.
Jonny Lang, Turn Around (A & M Records, 2006)
The contrasts in the Psalter are startling. Psalm 2 celebrates the reign of God's anointed, but already in Psalm 3 David, a type of the messianic king, is on the run. The dark despair of Psalm 22 is followed by the pastoral peace of Psalm 23. In Psalm 25 David confesses his sinful past and in Psalm 26 he pleads his blamelessness. These jarring juxtapositions reflect (and perhaps magnify) the complexity and volatility of David's life and ours.
The songs on Turn Around do the same. A joyful baptismal gathering in "That Great Day" is followed by a solitary—and potentially suicidal—sojourn to a bridge in "It's Not Over" ("Standing on the edge of a bridge/ one step from ending it all"). In "Bump in the Road" the spiritual pilgrim (read "trucker") is both determined ("Won't back down/ I know it gets better") and skeptical ("Breaker, breaker, breaker - 1 - 9/ is there anybody out there?"). And while the title song tells us it's never too late to turn around, "The Last Goodbye" expresses the tug to turn back ("a fool's desire for one final glance").
Temptations and trials notwithstanding, Lang's overall message is one of hope and healing, as evidenced in the chorus to the opening cut and the the refrain of the last song.
Can't slow down - not for the weather
Won't back down - I know it gets better
(Come) too far now - if I can keep it together
Won't turn around - not now for just a bump in the road
("Bump in the Road")
It's not over - for you and I [sic]
It's not over - there's still time
("It's Not Over")
Health and wholeness are most evident in the human-divine dialogue in "Only a Man." The parts sung by husband and wife, Jonny Lang as petitioner and Haylie Lang as the voice of God, implicitly underscore the metaphorical image of marriage in Scripture.
Oh what about these things Lord (I'll set you free)
But there [sic] so heavy (Lay them at my feet)
I'll lay them at your feet
Just promise me you won't leave (I'll never leave)
So where do I go from here Lord (Just follow me, just follow me)
I'll follow you (Just follow me)
Turn Around belongs on the shelf between Eugene Peterson's translation of the Psalms and Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming. It is an inspiring mix that includes soulful sounds reminiscent of Stevie Wonder ("One Person at a Time"), blues ("The Other Side of the Fence") and a whole lot of gospel.