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The success of his debut, Long Black Train, had folks in Nashville making bets about Josh Turner's capturing 2004's CMA Horizon Award, but then Turner, whose resonant baritone-bass will rattle the screws out of your car stereo speakers, seemed to quickly fade from sight. Now, with his sophomore album, he proves he wasn't a fluke, even if nothing here immerses itself in the baptismal fire of temptation, death, and redemption with the power of Train. His duet with Ralph Stanley, "Me and God," which Turner wrote, somehow falls short, especially since Stanley sounds so weak that he might have fallen over at the microphone. Where Turner does bring home the bacon is in moving out of the gospel area and wisely choosing four songs from the pen of the underrated Shawn Camp: "Would You Go with Me," the irresistible bluegrass invitation to forever (with lyrics that sound Biblically inspired, despite the overly romantic tone); the hilarious "Loretta Lynn's Lincoln"; the bluesy "No Rush," which walks the same sexy path as Tony Joe White and Conway Twitty; and the frustrated-husband lament "Baby's Gone Home to Mama." Turner also scores points in tipping his hat to heritage, sometimes more subtle (reworking Don Williams's "Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy") than overt. But not always. When the South Carolinian launches into his own "Way Down South," a mandolin-and-electric-guitar paean to the geographical womb that formed him, that sound you hear in the background is the whoosh of cowboy hats, sailing through the Dixiefied stratosphere. --Alanna Nash
About the Artist
New artists dream about the kind of results Josh Turner achieved with his 2003 debut, Long Black Train. Spurred by its haunting, gospel-inflected title track, the album sold a million copies and brought Turner a pair of nominations from the influential Country Music Association, plus a Top New Artist nomination from the Academy of Country Music. That debut, however, was merely a prelude. Turner's sophomore project, Your Man, demonstrates an increased maturity, a better-honed sense of his strengths, and a more specific portrait of the singer as both an artist and a man.
"I've really learned a lot," Turner reflects. "We were listening to my first record the other day, and I couldn't believe how much my voice has matured and grown from that time."
The album covers a range of emotions--from romantic devotion to spiritual intimacy to ethereal silliness--while paying overt allegiance to many of the musical figures who inspired him. Two of his biggest influences, honky-tonker John Anderson and bluegrass pioneer Ralph Stanley, make guest appearances; a Don Williams hit, "Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy," gets reworked; and the Coal Miner's Daughter is even referenced in the title of the inexplicably weird "Loretta Lynn's Lincoln." If that weren't enough, Turner pays tribute to Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, and even trucker-ballad specialist Red Sovine. In fact, the last notes Turner sings on the album are an unintentional tribute to a country-gospel master, as the singer recaptures the way on down line from the late J.D. Sumners performance on an Elvis Presley hit.
Born and raised in Hannah, South Carolina, Turner got his first exposure to music at the Union Baptist Church. But his introduction to country music came through his father's mom, who acquainted him with Southern gospel quartets; country stars Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb; and bluegrass legends the Osborne Brothers and the Stanley Brothers.
"Ralph Stanley has such a unique voice, and he's really carved a niche for himself," Turner says. "He's kept mountain music and bluegrass music alive, and introduced a lot of new fans to that kind of music, and I was one of those people from a very early age."
After his initial success, Turner was empowered on the second album. He explores more emotional avenues and utilizes the lower end of his identifiable bass/baritone range more frequently. Though it sets him apart from his contemporaries, he's careful not to turn his signature into a novelty. Instead, he's picked material in which his basement tones are a natural enhancement to the messages hes conveying. Still, Turner's voice is ultimately an instrument that communicates the deeper influences in his world. His wife, his musical heritage, and his deeper understanding of his art all make their presence felt through inspiration or expression on Your Man, an uncommonly seamless sophomore effort. It's clear that calling his award-winning first album a debut was right on the mark: It was merely an introduction to an inspired and evolving artist.
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