Josh Turner is back, with a collection that he calls his “Mount Rushmore Of Country Music”, titled ‘Country State Of Mind’. Spanning more than half a century of classic country music, it’s essentially a covers album, but it’s a covers album with a whole lot of personal significance and depth, with a goal to introduce some of Josh’s favourites to his own audience.
‘Country State Of Mind’ is a project filled with collaborations from all corners of the country world, including legends such as John Anderson, Kris Kristofferson and Allison Moorer. ‘Alone and Forsaken’, the collaboration with Moorer, was a Hank Williams song officially released in 1955, two years after his death, and it’s such a dark, haunting number that provides a real iconic, memorable moment on this album. The beauty of Josh’s song selection is that they’re not all instantly-recognisable classics; some are deeper, hidden cuts that he felt needed some modern-day exposure. It makes for a hugely engaging, interesting mixture. A few weeks back, Josh said to us:
“My manager and I had talked about doing a record like this; we went to the label and they were excited about the idea. There’s a big variety of songs, and I didn’t just want to entertain my fans with this record, I also wanted to educate them. I could have easily filled this record with the big classics that everyone knows, but what’s the fun in that?”
Along the way, Josh has given opportunities to modern mainstream artists like Chris Janson, Maddie & Tae and Runaway June to showcase their talents, something which Josh told us was an important element to the project, as they share his traditional country mindset whilst fighting for their place in the competitive Nashville market:
“For me, when I first got my record deal, I took on that responsibility of being from a traditional world and being expected to create music that gets played on radio. I had to compete, and still maintain that traditional integrity. Artists like Chris Janson, Runaway June and Maddie & Tae are in that same mould, they come from that same perspective”
Josh’s collaboration with Maddie & Tae sees them taking on ‘Desperately’, which was a top 10 hit for George Strait in 2004, but was written and recorded originally by Bruce Robison in 1998. The three-part harmonies between them are simply gorgeous; a divine merging of old country with the newer crop of talent. Elsewhere, the duet with Chris Janson on Hank Williams Jr’s ‘Country State Of Mind’ sums up the vibe of the album, conveying Josh’s country roots in an unapologetic, proud manner. Runaway June’s input on the Patty Loveless single, ‘You Don’t Seem To Miss Me’, is also well worth a listen, with Josh’s vocal taking the lead as opposed to the original, where the male vocal (George Strait) provided the backing. More harmony bliss here and plenty of fiddle; a match made in heaven.
The highlight of the album is, without a doubt, Josh’s rendition of Vern Gosdin’s 1984 #1 hit, ‘I Can Tell By The Way You Dance’. Ironically, Verne Gosdin originally felt the song was too Rock & Roll for him, and didn’t record it for two years when he first heard it. Nowadays, it’s considered a ‘country’ classic! This is the genius of this project; it’s introducing older gems to a whole new audience, and Josh’s version feels so current, without losing the magic of the original. It’s full of energy and feel-good vibes, and it’s the track you’ll probably find yourself going straight back to, after your first complete listen. Sublime production and just so Josh Turner. If you’re going to do a cover, this is how it’s done.
The icing on the cake is a cameo appearance from Randy Travis on the iconic ‘Forever And Ever, Amen’. Josh Turner is one of few artists who you could trust to totally do this song justice, and he’s done exactly that with a beautiful rendition that finishes with a simple ‘Amen’ from the man himself; a mightily touching moment that adds a whole new level of prestige to the project.
It’s albums like this that restore faith in the legacy of country music, and ensure that the classics of the past aren’t lost on country music’s new ears. From start to finish, ‘Country State Of Mind’ oozes class; a wholesome, easy-on-the-ear collection from one of the genre’s most accomplished and legendary vocalists.