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'Signs' point home: Jonny Lang returns with new album ready for release

Jonny Lang returns to town to play Bluestem Center for the Arts Sunday night. Special to The Forum1 / 3
Jonny Lang opens for the Rolling Stones at the Fargodome in 1999. Special to The Forum2 / 3
Jonny Lang plays Bluestem Center for the Arts Sunday night. Special to The Forum3 / 3

MOORHEAD — When Jonny Lang returns to play Bluestem Center for the Arts the night of Sunday, June 18, he'll do what any hometown boy does — he'll visit his family and friends.

He's even got an outfit picked out.

"I'm looking forward to wearing an 'I built the Dome' T-shirt," he says over the phone, then adds, laughing, "which I really shouldn't be wearing."

The Fargodome opened in 1992 when Lang — then Langseth — was 11. Heck, it opened a year before the Fargo native even started playing guitar.

While he didn't physically help build the Dome, he contributed to its legacy when he opened up for the Rolling Stones there in 1999 while other kids his age were in the midst of their senior year in high school.

"It was really nice of the Rolling Stones to close for me when I came to town," Lang says with laugh.

While the singer/guitarist has returned to his hometown for a number of solo shows since then, he's returning this time with another musical icon — blues legend Buddy Guy.

"To be able to play with Buddy Guy anytime is crazy and amazing. To be able to play in my hometown with him is something very special and something I'm really proud of," Lang says.

The two play together "quite often" Lang says, and while he's already a pretty accomplished musician at 36, watching the elder statesmen perform is still an inspiration.

"Every time he gets up there he puts out that energy and passion still and he's 80 years old, it makes me feel really dumb for ever feeling not in the mood to do a performance, which — you know — happens from time to time," Lang says. "He's really dedicated to the people who come see him. He's there for them and takes it seriously."

Lang says there's a good chance he and Guy will jam together.

"If he hears that it's my hometown, he'll probably make me get on stage and play," he says.

Guy is the last of the great old bluesmen that Lang studied when he took guitar lessons from Ted Larson in Fargo. Larson would enlist "kid" Jonny Lang to front his band, The Big Bang. The band moved to Minneapolis in the mid-1990s where Lang got picked up by A&M records. He made his major label debut in 1997 and scored a big hit with "Lie to Me."

He's going back to the roots of the blues with his forthcoming album, "Signs," due out on Sept. 8.

Lang was raised on his parents' music, which was more R&B and Motown, he explains.

"I didn't really know the genres of music. It was all just music to me," he says.

Classic rock was also an influence, and he wanted the new record to be riff-oriented.

Pressed on what are some of his favorite riffs, Lang mentions the obvious one, Jimmy Page, before saying there are too many to mention.

"There are too many. I think they've all been taken. We don't have that many notes to choose from and there are only so many combinations," he says. "I try to do my best to blur it and make it sound as original as I can."

While he had success with gospel rock a decade ago — he won the Best Rock or Gospel Album Grammy for 2006's "Turn Around" — he's reluctant to get into specifics about the songs on "Signs."

"It's funny, I try not to be too specific about what each song means to me, because it can be so many things to different people and I like that," he says.

If you go

What: Jonny Lang and Buddy Guy Concert

When: 7 p.m. Sunday, June 18; gates open at 5 p.m.

Where: Bluestem Center for the Arts, 801 50th Ave. S., Moorhead

Info: Tickets from $35 to $75, plus fees., (866) 300-8300