Josh Turner 'Punching Bag' - Humphead/MCA

Not quite the traditional country knockout that the ring-entering introduction suggests, this latest offering from the baritone-voiced Turner has, none-the-less some good tracks with the country instrumentation more to the fore than is often the case these days. Turner makes his religious beliefs fairly apparent not only in his written introduction but also in the choice of songs. His solo written For The Love Of God and the outside song I Was There both are testaments to his faith, largely as statements of his convictions rather than taking some stance of the moral high ground. Gospel and Christian faith have long been a staple of country music/bluegrass repertoires. Fellow Christian Ricky Skaggs joins Turner on mandolin, banjo and harmony vocals for the aforementioned For The Love Of God, a songs with acoustic instrumentation but using drums to give it some added momentum. The opening much of the title track, a co-write between Turner and Pat McLaughlin, is written from the stance of the male taking the hits from his female partner and features the assembled players giving the song some weight. Find Me A Baby is a paen to family that subtly using the voices of his family in the chorus mix. Perhaps the stand-out here is another Josh Turner song Pallbearer which is graced by Iris DeMents harmony vocal which works and contrasts well with Turners lead vocal. Marty Stuart also adds his skill as mandolin players on the track. It is one song that has a darker tone that likens the role of pallbearer to that of man bereft of his girlfriend. It sounds great and more of this would make a great album though one that will unlikely find a place at radio. There is a deluxe edition of the album that features five additional live tracks including the title song and some tracks from previous albums including one of his undoubted highlights. Again it is a song that digs a little deeper, Long Black Train sounds as good in this version as it did in the studio. Josh Turner has the voice, the songs and the belief to further the cause of traditional country and it would be great to her him make an album that didn't have to consider what radio programmers might think fits their restricted formats. An album produced by Marty Stuart and with his Superlatives would be something special. In the meantime this will please his fans and those looking for something that still feels like country music as it was. 

Josh Turner 'Haywire' Humphead

The man with the deep, deep voice is back with his latest album. A solid collection of up beat songs that fits the radio formatting criteria in that Frank Rogers production is robust and rounded with mandolin, banjo and country guitar well placed in the mix of these mainly uptempo songs. The ballads like, Lovin' You On My Mind are big productions, with strings and backing vocals giving the whole song an added layer of gloss. The problem here, for this listener, is that few of the songs have any bite or grit. Many of them could be equally recorded, with a slightly different sound by the likes of Westlife. Turner's co-writes As Fast As I Could and Eye Candy (which is a very catchy song, co-written with tongue firmly in cheek by Shawn Camp and Pat McLaughlin) are marginally better as one suspects that Turner would like to get his vocal chords around something more substantial. The song Long Black Train is an example of that, and is here in a watered down version as a bonus track on this deluxe edition, but there is nothing here that has the same resonance. Haywire is well produced, played and sung and is an easy listen from one of Music Row's more traditional artists but the whole thing feels like sugar sweet piece of candy rather something more fulfilling.