Quick spin: ‘Punching Bag,’ by Josh Turner

Josh Turner
Punching Bag

These days, it seems like every male country artist wants to sound like Jon Bon Jovi fronting Def Leppard in 1985 — except for Josh Turner, who might be the only million-seller left in Nashville making contemporary country albums without the slightest whiff of arena rock or pop. Turner has been called the Barry White of country music, which is true as long as you can imagine a White who has never heard of sex.

On his new album, Turner applies his gobsmacker of a baritone to some of the most well-scrubbed, Eagle-Scout-straight songs since those found on his last album, which “Punching Bag” closely resembles. Turner is a freakishly endearing artist whose albums are nowhere near as good as he is.

They usually adhere to a familiar formula, with different versions of the same type of songs, all of which show up here: The duet with legendary but slightly less famous peers (“Pallbearer,” a somber bordering on morose ballad leavened by the presence of Iris DeMent and Marty Stuart); the Saturday-night roadhouse raver (the title track); the woo-pitcher (“Find Me a Baby”); the radio-friendly corn-pone love song (“Good Problem”).

Another Turner staple is the religious devotional, this time sung from the point of view of God just to keep things interesting. “I Was There” (“At Gettysburg, Omaha Beach and Vietnam / I heard every soldier’s cry / And every mom’s prayer”) is ridiculously weepy, possibly blasphemous and entirely improbable. Even if God were to have a second career as a Music Row songwriter, it’s unlikely He would have laid it on this thick.

Allison Stewart

The songs on Josh Turner’s album “Punching Bag” adhere to a familiar formula. (Courtesy of MCA Nashville)

Recommended Tracks

“Deeper Than My Love,” “Pallbearer,” “I Was There”

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