Josh Turner ‘Punching Bag' (MCA Nashville)
With his deep baritone and neotraditionalist leanings, Josh Turner boasts one of the more distinctive voices in modern country music, but the material on his latest album, “Punching Bag,” only intermittently offers a worthy showcase for it.
His fifth studio album opens with a boxing-inspired introduction from famed ring announcer Michael “Let's Get Ready to Rumble” Buffer, who grandly declares Turner “the tornado of testosterone, the bone-shaking baritone” who is “fighting out of the traditional country music corner.” It's a nifty segue into the title track, an energetic anthem about taking life's hard knocks and swinging with them.
Coupled with the cover art design that labels the tracks “Round One” through “Round Twelve,” it initially appears that the South Carolina native might be working on an intriguing concept album. Alas, “Punching Bag” quickly settles into Turner's usual good-natured family-man mix of buoyant love songs, brokenhearted ballads and original hymns.
Turner wrote or co-wrote eight tracks on the album, and with a couple of significant exceptions, the songs on his new chart-topping collection are pleasant enough to the ear but not especially memorable.
It's hard to escape the impression that he and his fellow songsmiths are relying a mite too heavily on that singular voice and the novelty of traditional country instrumentation to set them apart.