Country State of Mind

Country State of Mind

Since the early 2000s, Josh Turner has built his career as much on linking his musical sensibilities to those of his predecessors as fitting in among his contemporaries. He defined his approach early on by lending his baritone to the almost gothic country-gospel of “Long Black Train,” followed by numerous courtly, romancing hits. He’s reached a midpoint in his career, eight albums in, where circling back to his icons and influences holds great appeal. On Country State of Mind, whose crisp yet naturalistic production was handled by Kenny Greenberg, Turner pays tribute first and foremost to five singers he credits with shaping his sensibilities. Randy Travis makes a harmonizing appearance (a rarity since his stroke) on a string band rendition of his ’80s chart-topper “Forever and Ever, Amen,” and John Anderson duets on his early-’90s hit “I’ve Got It Made.” Then there’s “I Can Tell by the Way You Dance,” a suave, old-school come-on from Vern Gosdin, and “Alone and Forsaken” and “The Caretaker,” a couple of the more morbid selections from the catalogs of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, respectively. These tracks—and several others that were originally recorded by neo-traditionalists admired for their ways with melancholy (Keith Whitley’s “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” and Patty Loveless’ “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me”) and stoic storytelling (Alan Jackson’s “Midnight in Montgomery” and George Strait’s “Desperately”)—let Turner showcase the two sides of his singing that he's developed most. Sometimes he sounds composed and deliberate, bending to his impressive low notes alongside a generation-spanning array of guests, and other times his grainy timbre takes on urgent undertones.

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