Album Review: Josh Turner – Haywire

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.”

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  1. says

    I generally agree with this. I think it does *sound* really good compared to most major label releases these days (production and vocals), but the songs are all lyrically bland. Josh has always been a bit hit-and-miss for me in terms of his material, but this one’s all miss.

  2. cntryMomma says

    I love this site, but rarely have the luxury of time to comment … ;o ) … but I just had to say something here …

    It’s a sad state when folks are annoyed that a good Christian man puts out a “sweet” album. As much I can enjoy and appreciate the realness of a raw emotional country song, it’s not everyone’s style. If this is the type of music he want to make, more power to him. *shrug* I love Josh Turner as a person and as an artist.

  3. says

    I agree with this review. While there are some pleasant enough sounding tunes here, the album is completely underwhelming in general. So far, nothing has reached out and grabbed me in any way. Even his last album, which I’ve made no secret about being disappointed in, had many more bright spots than this. Like Ocasional Hope said, his voice and the production is more like what I want to hear in country music, but there’s still a disconnect to me. Not only aren’t any of the lyrics particularly interesting, I still feel like he’s not vocally connected with what he’s singing. He’s kind of in the same category as Darryle Singletary for me at this point. They’ve both got the goods, but they’ve got to choose better songs to match their talent.

  4. says

    I just don’t think he has anything particularly compelling to say and has backed himself into a corner regarding the type of material he’s willing to record. He’s got the looks, the voice, a nice family, and enough money that he can afford to build a log cabin dedicated solely to songwriting. From the outside looking in, there’s no conflict in life, so why should there be in his songs? It’d be nice if life were really that easy and I respect him for sticking to his principles, but the resulting material just isn’t that interesting.

    I saw somewhere recently where he said he passed on “In Color” because it didn’t fit him. If there’s something wrong with the message or subject matter in that song, then what’s left? Or is he afraid of associating himself with Jamey Johnson? I just don’t get it.

    But, as always, that’s just my subjective take.

  5. Paul W Dennis says

    This may be one of the best sounding CDs released in the last few years and that surely counts for something. I do agree that the songs are mostly trifles, so this will never qualify as a great album, as contrasted to some of the other great sounding albums such as the recent Gene Watson or Willie & The Wheel albums.

    I expect this album to be successful in the marketplace but he does need to vary the song selection for future releases or he will soon find himself qualifying for one of my FORGOTTEN ARTISTS articles

  6. Shirley Lee says

    I love this CD because the uptempo music and the happy lyrics just give me a great big smile across my face. When real life gets me down I can listen to this album and it cheers me up right away. I don’t need any heavy-handed inspirational message lyrics when I want something fun to listen to. And this very definitely fits the bill for me, for sure. I love me some Josh!


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