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Long Black Train - Josh Turner
Long Black Train - Josh Turner
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Reviewed by Kathy Coleman

Josh Turner does what so few so-called country music singers are doing right now... he's singing country music. The real thing, plain, hardcore, country music. With a voice sometimes as velvety as Don Williams, at times as gravely as Conway Twitty, often as deep and rich as Johnny Cash himself, Josh Turner sounds real the moment the first words of his first single, "Long Black Train," come barreling out of the speakers. It's a surprise choice for the lead-off single for a brand-new artist--there are definitely more "radio-friendly" tunes on this disc. But with this pure-country, gospel-toned "Long Black Train" as an introduction, Turner is telling folks exactly where he's coming from. But then, this is the song Josh Turner performed at the Grand Old Opry on December 21, 2001, and got what only a few new performers at the Opry ever get -- a standing ovation and an encore. The song was inspired by Hank Williams' "Luke the Drifer" tunes; the music is pure country.

This young man is the one-hundred-percent real deal.

Heck, even some of those more mainstream tunes, the "radio-friendly" ones, such as "I Had One One Time" and "Unburn All Our Bridges," on this debut disc aren't too bad. Sentimental, certainly, but without apologies and not too sticky-sweet; again, a comparison to Don Williams isn't very far off-base.

"Unburn All Our Bridges" is probably the weakest track on the disc, simply due to the fact the key seems a little too high for Turner's rumbling low baritone/bass, which sounds as though he's straining in a few places.

"Jacksonville" is a plain old love story-song delivered with warmth and a real honesty of emotion which is often missing from a great deal of the standard mainstream Nashville pop. Even Turner's surprise cover of Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" is not heavy with pop influence. The best country singers have no problem at all with turning great rock songs into awesome country ones (rather than just doing a mirror-cover, which happens so often these days); Turner rises to the challenge and joins that elite crew.

"She'll Go On You" is really one song I would have expected to have gone to radio (and I understand this is slated as the second single, the one aimed to get him played on corporate radio). It's a standard "time passes too fast and don't take anything for granted" tune, but nonetheless sounds pretty good in Turner's hands although it feels a bit too heavily produced and, frankly, obviously mainstream-radio. Still, it's followed by "Good Woman Bad," a terrific floor-stomper with a lot of hot fiddle and powerful guitar licks. I think I probably would have closed the disc with that one, rather than the wistful "The Difference Between A Woman and A Man," a mandolin-touched ballad which is lovely, but ends the disc on more of a relaxed note than the stronger song would have done. Of the ballads, though, it's definitely the best.

There's no doubt this South Carolina native has what it takes. If he continues to follow those who inspired him, Hank and Cash and Randy Travis, he's going to stay in really good company. Keepin' it this country, the boy can't go wrong.

Album cover, used with permission of MCA Nashville

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