Josh Turner’s entry point into recognition, the 2003 hit “Long Black Train”, was a single so striking in its lean hard country sound, so born of tradition and specific in its imagery — and, with its steady rhythm and his riveting deep baritone, so impossible to get out of your head — that comparisons were being made to the young Johnny Cash and “I Walk The Line”. Heady stuff to have to follow, but this emerging Nashville star has found a pretty good way to do it on his sophomore album.
Working with producer Frank Rogers, Turner and his hand work an array of sounds with a history — some honky-tonk (including a John Anderson duet), some bluegrass tones (including a Ralph Stanley duet), some bluesy countrypolitan — and update them cleanly, creating a rooted but never retro mix that’s encouraging for anyone who wants to hear good country tones emanate from Music Row.
And there are some strong songs. “No Rush”, one of four partly written by rising performing songwriter Shawn Camp, takes Turner into intimate Conway Twitty territory notable also in a recent Dierks Bentley single. A return to sensual adult sexuality (which is the root of the first hit on this record, the winning “I’m Your Man”) stands to reinvigorate the country charts now, as had the return to Waylon-like rhythms. Turner’s own “Gravity” is a strong, smart love song with some new tropes on “falling.”
There are some weak spots on this collection, mainly in a few “poor country boy down south” and romantic tunes that, while sounding good, show a willingness to accept generalized, relatively shopworn lyrical turns on those standby themes. With this guy’s strong tools and gifts, you figure he’ll have time to work on that.