It’s not overstating it to say that “Long Black Train” was a polarizing song when Josh Turner released it in 2003. Some people were taken aback by the not too subtle religious overtones of the song.
And other people liked the fact that a new artist like Turner was bold enough to release a potentially controversial song right out of the gate.
Turner claims that even today he can be a mystery to some people, but that’s probably not really the case. You aren’t going to find Turner releasing songs about drinking or cheating. He loves God and his family. Friday night, his wife, Jennifer, and their three sons — Hampton, Colby, and Crawford — will be with him for his show at Centennial Terrace. He’s matured as an artist, but who he is as a person has stayed consistent from the beginning.
“When I first started out, I had a lot of opposition, a lot of people who didn’t seem to agree with how I was doing things, and that was OK,” Turner said by phone from his home near Nashville. “There were some things I was not going to compromise or apologize for.”
That stubbornness and conviction has endeared him to his fans. Turner has two platinum albums under his belt, and his current release, “Punching Bag,” debuted atop the country albums chart with sales of 45,000 in its first week after being released on June 12.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had an album out, and I haven’t kept up with the albums chart, so I didn’t know how many copies a No. 1 album had been selling in the last year or two,” said Turner, whose previous disc, “Haywire,” was released in February, 2010. “I didn’t know what to expect, and I was just really excited when I got the news.”
The first thing that jumps out about the new album is that Turner had a hand in writing or co-writing eight of the 11 tracks. He wrote three songs on the “Long Black Train” album, and the increasing number of self-penned cuts on his current record is no accident. Turner spent nearly two years building a writer’s cabin on his property — about 30 miles south of Music City — that he finished right before beginning work on “Punching Bag.” The cabin is stocked with his music, memorabilia, but more importantly is devoid of phones or televisions that could distract him from the reason he is there.
“It’s a place I go to be inspired. Once they handed me the keys, I got in there, and I’ve written 27 songs — eight ended up on this record,” Turner said. “One of my favorite memories of the cabin was when I wrote ‘Pallbearer’ [for the new album]. This song just came pouring out. I was just watching the story unfold in my mind. I probably wrote it within an hour. It was just one of those songs that came effortlessly.”
The new project has some fun, up-tempo songs, but Turner also pays homage to his religious roots. “I Was There” is a poignant ballad from God’s perspective that is meant to inspire. “Pallbearer” and “For the Love of God” are the only two songs he wrote by himself. The other six titles with his name attached to them were written with his buddies at the cabin.
“Everyone I write with is a friend of mine. That time in the cabin is a time for us to catch up, kind of bond, just to be creative together.”
Turner is looking forward to trying out some of the new material in Sylvania and also digging into his catalog that includes No. 1 hits “Your Man,” “Would You Go with Me,” “Why Don’t We Just Dance,” and “All Over Me.”
“Not only will the show sound good, but it will look good too. We’re bringing the lights and videos,” Turner said. “We try to give the fans their money’s worth. We’re going to have a good time.”
Josh Turner will be in concert at Centennial Terrace at 8 p.m. on Friday. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. General admission tickets are available for $27.50 at the Stranahan box office, Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 800-745-3000, or at the Centennial Terrace box office after 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The ticket price increases to $32 on the day of the show. Small chairs will be allowed in the general admission area.