Album Review: Josh Turner – Haywire

Juli Thanki | February 5th, 2010

josh-turner-haywireThe finest male voice on country radio is back with his first record in over two years. His last release, Everything is Fine went gold and saw him expanding his boundaries, experimenting with R&B and Celtic music. So Josh Turner had a lot to live up to on his fourth album.

Haywire starts off strong with infectious escapist tune “Why Don’t We Just Dance,” a single that recently cracked the Top 10. From there, the record is one love song after another. If you’re looking for a songs about drunkenness, brokenhearted wallowing, two-timing, or any other behaviors often featured in country music, best look someplace else, Debbie Downer. As he said in his interview with Blake Boldt last month, “Basically, the theme of this record is taking people’s minds off the economy and all that.” Mission accomplished? Maybe.

Though he had a hand on fewer songs than he did on Everything Is Fine, five of Haywire’s 11 songs were written or co-written by Turner. As always, he surrounds himself with some of the best in the business: Shawn Camp and Chris Stapleton show up once more as songwriters, while accomplished bluegrass musicians Bryan Sutton and Aubrey Haynie contribute some expert picking.

“As Fast As I Could,” written with Jeremy Spillman (“Another Try,” “Arlington”), is the one of the strongest songs of the album and seems destined for success on the charts. It sounds somewhat similar to “Would You Go With Me,” combining a rootsy fiddle and Dobro arrangement with an insanely catchy chorus. As with “Would You Go With Me,” Turner absolutely nails this song, sounding sweet and sincere as he sings “I ran full speed ahead without stopping to rest/Not knowing where I was headed to/Now that I’m here, it’s perfectly clear/I was making my way to you/Can’t believe how long it took/But I got here as fast as I could.” As a bonus, there are hints of Turner’s all-too-rare falsetto.

On Everything Is Fine, Josh Turner flirted with R&B on his duet with Anthony Hamilton, “Nowhere Fast.” On Haywire, the R&B feel is back with “Lovin’ You On My Mind,” only this time, Turner’s flying solo. Written by Kendell Marvel, Chris Stapleton, and Tim James, “Lovin'” is a slow burn of a song, thanks to Turner’s sultry delivery, which is backed by Nashville Sound-esque strings. It’s not hard to imagine this being a song Conway Twitty would have jumped at the chance to record 30 years ago. Also in this soulful vein is the decidedly unsexy but very moving gospel tune, “The Answer,” on which Turner brings in a choir.

Like his previous three albums, Haywire has some filler. But it’s better filler than the material on his earlier records: there are no outright stinkers like “Trailerhood.” The weakest song is the album’s title track. A song about a woman who leaves a man tongue-tied, shaking, and full of desire calls for a looser, wilder performance; here Turner’s restrained delivery suggests he’ll go haywire…as soon as this episode of Babe Winkelman’s Good Fishing ends. He’s made it clear that he can cut loose with songs like “Loretta Lynn’s Lincoln,” and Johnny Horton’s “One Woman Man,” but that feeling of playfulness is missing on “Haywire.”

The album’s lone cover is a remake of Don Williams’ 1987 Top 10 hit “I Wouldn’t Be a Man.” Turner’s version is nothing particularly special, especially when compared to Williams’ damn fine original; Turner seems to be phoning it in. It’s hard not to compare it to Turner’s other, better Don Williams cover, “Lord Have Mercy On a Country Boy” (from Your Man). Now, the lyrics to “I Wouldn’t Be a Man” are cringe-worthy even when a smooth guy like Don Williams is singing them, so although Josh Turner should be commended for singing “the secret way you touch me/Tells me there’s no holding back” without sounding like a creeper, this one can be skipped over without missing too much.

Though there are no exceptional songs on here comparable to “Long Black Train” or “The Longer the Waiting (The Sweeter the Kiss),” Haywire is a very solid album. It just doesn’t live up to the flashes of brilliance we’ve seen from Josh Turner on previous work.

3.5 Stars

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  1. Dan Milliken
    February 5, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Bangin’ review.

  2. Rick
    February 5, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Josh is just too laid back for his own good when it comes to his singing style. As much as I love Josh’s cover of Don Williams’ “Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy”, Josh just can’t be as relaxed as Don in his vocal style and get away with it. What Josh needs is a good, swift kick dose of “Frisky” before he heads into the studio. He can keep coasting along quite successfully just as he is, but it sure would be nice for him to crank out a batch of great songs worth getting excited about.

  3. Shannon
    February 5, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Love Josh Turner! His voice is deep, sexy and believable … I could listen to him sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and I would thoroughly enjoy it

  4. Wade
    February 5, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I really like Josh Turner, he keeps putting out consistantly good COUNTRY music. Keep it up Josh!

  5. Nicolas
    February 5, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I’m looking forward to getting this album when it comes out next week, I really LOVE “Why Don’t We Just Dance” =)

  6. merlefan49
    February 5, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    The only song that really impressed me was “Long Black Train” Wish he would go on an indie label and be set free do make his own music.

  7. Nicolas
    February 5, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    @Merlefan49: I don’t see what that would accomplish, because he seems to have made it quite obvious that this is the type of music he is happy to make. Whether it has a big label name on the record or not, I don’t think much would change. (And for me, that’s not a bad thing)

  8. K H
    February 6, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I’m surprised two of my favorite songs are not mentioned in the review:

    1. Your Smile – a happy go lucky tune about the simple pleasures in life (and probably the next radio chart)

    2. I’ll Be There – a ballad about being a father.

    I don’t consider either of these as “love songs” per say.

    Also, on the “Deluxe” version of the album is a track cut in 2003 for “Long Black Train” but unreleased – “Let’s Find a Church”. One of the better songs if you have the “deluxe” version of this album.

  9. Josh
    February 6, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Out of curiosity: how were you able to retain an album that hasn’t been released yet in any way? Is it a special pre-promotion in which critics get the previews first before the mass media? Just wondering…

  10. Nicolas
    February 6, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Record labels send out promo copies of albums to critics, I believe

  11. sam (sam)
    February 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Nah, they probably got it on one of those “win it before you can buy it” radio contests. But wait – how do those stations get their copies?

  12. jen
    February 7, 2010 at 2:32 am

    Sam- Nope. Some people who pre-ordered Haywire have received it already. Got mine and I’m loving it.

  13. Josh
    February 8, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    wow…guess the pre-order feature is a definite good thing to go through. I think I’ll just wait for it to come out so that the anticipation is still spinning my dopamine level sky-high. :P

  14. SMB
    February 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    How could you not point out Josh’s blatant theft of Keith Urban’s “Love Pain & the whole crazy thing” album cover?

  15. Gloria
    February 9, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    No worries SMB!! I think Josh is handsome, but he ain’t got what Keith has..if you know what I mean!! lol! I would never have noticed that if you hadn’t posted this. Keith’s is sexier!

  16. Paul W Dennis
    February 11, 2010 at 9:05 am

    The performance and overall sound of this album are very good; however, the songs themself are insignificant. I like the album but he cannot get away with such unvaried programming for very long

  17. Sally Lanario (france)
    February 11, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I can’t wait for its release here in France i just love the voice & the man. Noone has it yet

  18. karen
    February 12, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Josh Turner is the best voice today in country music, & he insists on putting his religion in his music, therefore God will continue his success, it’s quite simple, he doesn’t want to be the sexiest singer, he just wants to sing, I thank God he does.

  19. T. Thieler
    February 21, 2010 at 9:07 am

    I completely agree with you, Karen. But I’m also glad Josh includes songs containing passionate love, too. In this day and age, Josh is a wonderful example of a good role model. Someone who’s passionate about life/love yet has the moral decency to keep it clean. The worlds could sure use more men/people just like him. :)

    One last thing, this article criticized “Trailerhood.” I’d like to let Josh know that “Trailerhood” is a favorite of my family’s. It makes us laugh. :) We also love, “The Longer the Waiting” and would love to see a music video someday with Josh as captain of a ship steering home to his sweetheart. :)

  20. Steve Harvey
    March 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    has the moral decency to keep it clean
    Oh boy. Moral decency? Do you find ‘Come A Little Closer’ or ‘Nothing On But The Radio’ morally indecent?

  21. Rick (USA)
    March 4, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Wow, i was stunned to hear Your Smile. It was possably the best song I have ever listened to. I couldn’t stop listening to it. I had it on all day in my office! I probley annyoed my co-workers, but I didn’t care! THANK YOU JOSH FOR THAT AWSOME SONG!

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