With the release of his new album, Everything Is Fine, Josh Turner remains a moving target for anyone attempting to succinctly categorize his music. He’s been on the move ever since his original song, “Long Black Train,” became a hit in 2003.
With the stark sound of Turner’s deep baritone voice and the song’s spiritual theme, “Long Black Train” provided exactly the kind of early success that has stereotyped other artists and relegated them to category of one-hit wonders. The South Carolina native tells CMT.com he never thought of that possibility until his debut album, titled after the single, began to sell in substantial quantities.
“I first started noticing it, I guess, when I started looking for songs for my next record,” Turner says. “There were so many people pitching me those types of songs. It was all faith-based, spiritual-type songs. It was great that people were out there writing that kind of stuff for me, but it that wasn’t what I wanted to build my career around. I wanted to show people I could sing other types of songs — that I wasn’t just one type of artist. … I am a Christian, and I’m very open about that, but I try to allow all of that to just coincide.”
He discussed his concerns with friends at his record label and management company to find ways to dispel the stereotype.
“It just boiled down to the right song,” he says. “We were like, ‘If we put the right song out, that’s really going to take care of all of that.’ I knew I could sing a lot of different kinds of songs.”
The right song proved to be “Your Man,” written by Chris DuBois, Chris Stapleton and Jace Everett.
“Even when I found ‘Your Man,’ I didn’t think it was the right song for me,” Turner says. “I took it home and just kind of lived with it for a little while and sang it to myself to try to make it my make it my own. … When we cut it, the magic happened. We knew that was the debut single from my sophomore album. That kind of took me away from the ‘Long Black Train’ era, so to speak.”
He followed up “Your Man” with “Would You Go With Me,” and both of the songs spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard country chart. “Firecracker,” the upbeat single from his new album, has already climbed to No. 5 on the country chart, but Everything Is Fine covers a lot of stylistic territory.
“I had a feeling that this album could go one of a lot of different ways,” he explains. “I guess my original concept was to try to find songs that sounded like they could be from the 1700s, 1800s, early 1900s … and have, obviously, current production and vocals. All of the songs were very cohesive, but at the same time, all of these songs had something a little different to them. They were like looking at some sort of gemstone that has a lot of facets. It’s all one, but you can see reflections of these different styles. That’s probably the best analogy for the album.”
While the album sounds very contemporary, one of the songs, “The Longer the Waiting,” sounds as though it truly could have been written hundreds of years ago. In reality, it was co-written this year by veteran songwriters Pat McLaughlin and Roger Cook.
“The first time I heard it, I didn’t really think of it in a commercial way,” Turner admits. “I thought, ‘Man, this a great song. I really like this.’ So I burned myself a copy just to listen to for pleasure because I loved the song so much. I thought it was beautiful. It told a great story.”
After he and producer Frank Rogers recorded the basic tracks for “The Longer the Waiting,” Turner had an idea about overdubbing an instrument that’s seldom heard on mainstream recordings these days.
“If there’s any song I do that needs bagpipes on it, this is the song,” Turner says. “It has that old Irish feel. It’s a sea shanty. It’s a bittersweet love story about a sailor about to leave home and doesn’t know if he will ever come back. It’s a very heart-wrenching, emotional story.”
Everything Is Fine features a duet with R&B singer-songwriter Anthony Hamilton on “Nowhere Fast” and with Trisha Yearwood on “Another Try.” Turner says Yearwood was the first name he and Rogers thought of when they began thinking about including a female vocalist on the album.
“I’ve always respected her and admired her,” Turner says. “I actually asked her face to face if she would be willing to listen to this specific song. She said, ‘Just send me what you’ve got. I’ll listen to you and let you know what I think about it.’ In the meantime, we found this song, ‘Another Try.’ When I heard it, I said, ‘That’s the song Trisha needs to sing on. That’s going on my record whether she sings on it or not.'” However, he adds, “She loved it and agreed to sing on it and just knocked it out of the park. She made my record sound better — just being on it.”
One of the album’s highlights is his remake of “One Woman Man,” a hit for Johnny Horton in 1956 and for George Jones in 1989. Although the rest of the album had been recorded, Rogers told Turner he felt like they needed to add one additional up-tempo song. Only 45 minutes remained in the session, and they were stumped in coming up with a good idea.
Turner recalls, “Frank finally said, ‘Is there something in your live shows that you do that people get excited about?’ I said, ‘Well, we do this medley that has three or four covers. One of them is that George Jones song, ‘One Woman Man,’ and when my voice goes down to that low part, the women go crazy.”
Few singers can make women go crazy by merely hitting a low note in a song. No doubt, a lot of people would like to know how that feels.
“I don’t know,” Turner laughs. “It’s just part of who I am. If they like it, that’s a good thing, but I don’t spend too much time thinking about it.”