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Recordings: Bill Friskics-Warren reviews new Josh Turner album, 'Haywire'

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Josh Turner

HAYWIRE

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An ardent neo-traditionalist, Josh Turner has built a career out of steadfastness, not just by making reliably strong records but also, in song after sturdily crafted song, by extolling the virtues of monogamy and commitment. The South Carolina native's voice -- a deep, multifaceted baritone -- naturally lends itself to this one-woman-man persona. But ultimately it's his transparently romantic heart -- and his ability, after the fashion of everyone from Bing Crosby to Brad Paisley, to sell a lyric, no matter how simple or run-of-the-mill -- that make his brand of sincerity so appealing.

Ten of the 11 tracks on Turner's latest album are love songs, divided more or less equally among tender ballads and lighthearted, up-tempo romps. "As Fast as I Could" splits the difference between the two, kicking off the CD with a cantering shuffle-beat and some nicely filigreed interplay on banjo and fiddle. Here, in an emberlike croon that recalls John Hartford's vocal on "Gentle on My Mind," Turner pledges his devotion to a woman who's often known less.

The album's libido-stoked title track updates vintage swamp pop; "Loving You on My Mind," a string-saturated ode to longing, is pure country-soul a la "Rainy Night in Georgia." Elsewhere, "Friday Paycheck" casts Turner as a 9-to-5er who just can't wait for the weekend and the chance to lavish some of his hard-earned cash on his steady girl. The sole exception on this album-length valentine is the record's gospel-steeped closer, yet another pledge of fidelity, only this one to a higher power.

-- Bill Friskics-Warren

Recommended tracks: "As Fast as I Could," "Loving You on My Mind"


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