Josh Turner could sing the phone book and make it sound appealing. Here, he almost does: Haywire is a repetitive disappointment of an album, a collection of individually likable (or at least tolerable) songs and performances that are less than the sum of their parts when listened to in succession.
Love songs are the order of the day. There are slow ones and fast ones, but few distinctive enough to overcome the considerable disadvantage of being surrounded by so many other love songs. Contrast can work wonders – higher highs make for lower lows and a more dynamic journey for listeners. In choosing a topically homogeneous bunch of songs with such a narrow emotional range (all songs fall somewhere between cute and sweet), Turner cannot avail himself of contrast.
If Josh Turner wants to be modern country music’s good Christian lover man, and nothing else, he’s going to have to find ways of exploring that identity that don’t involve repeating the same things over and over. He’s going to have to find and write better, more nuanced songs that develop rather than fit the pattern. He might even have to introduce some occasional conflict, another element in which Haywire is sorely lacking… because it’s hard to appreciate that things are going right when there are so few reminders that they could ever go wrong.
With little to differentiate themselves topically, the most memorable songs are those that find a distinctive groove: boot-scooting lead single “Why Don’t We Just Dance,” the dobro-driven “As Fast As I Could,” the country-soul of “Lovin’ You on My Mind” (with co-writer Chris Stapleton on background vocals). Most of the rest bleed into the background, including the album-closing reminder that Jesus is “The Answer” to, well, everything.
On one of the album’s most vapid songs, “Eye Candy,” Turner sings:
When the good Lord made that little looker
He musta used a whole lotta sugar
Maybe that’s the reason that I crave her
So much flavor, all the time.
But consumed in excess, sugar isn’t very flavorful at all; it’s tongue-numbingly, stomachache-inducingly sweet. And that’s precisely what’s wrong with Haywire – despite that voice and the endlessly sympathetic production of Frank Rogers, probably Turner’s least interesting album to date.
Note: The deluxe edition of the album features two additional studio tracks, “This Kind of Love” and “Let’s Find a Church,” and two live recordings, “Long Black Train” and “Your Man.”
Order it now from Amazon