Much has been said over the years about the fate of real country music. As with rock music, there are many who would like to say that real country music is dead. However, artists, such as Jamey Johnson, Chris Stapleton, Hank III, and Shooter Jennings have proven that it is very much alive and well. They are not the only artists who have proven this true. Josh Turner has done his own share to prove that real country music is alive and well throughout his career. His latest album Country State of Mind, which was released in June through MCA Nashville, is no exception to that rule. The 12-song covers compilation takes listeners through so much music history with its featured songs. They will be discussed shortly. The arrangements featured in the songs do their own part to make the record so appealing to country music purists. They will be discussed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of the record. All things considered, they make the compilation proof that real country music is still alive and well and that there are those who are working to make sure it stays alive. They make the album a wonderful tribute to the roots of country music.
Josh Turner’s new covers compilation Country State of Mind is a presentation that is certain to impress any country music purist. That is proven in part through its featured songs. The songs in question take listeners back to country music’s earliest days and even up to the 90s, which was really the end of the golden age of country music. The oldest of the songs featured in the recording is the Hank Williams hit song ‘Alone and Forsaken.’ The song was not officially recorded until the early 1950s, but its roots go all the way back to a radio performance in the late 1940s, and it is pure country. It is a prime example of what made and makes Hank Williams still one of the greatest country music artists of all time. Going through history some more, the record also goes back to the 1950s with a cover of Johnny Cash’s 1959 song ‘The Caretaker,’ which itself is more of a deep cut from Cash, into the 70s, with Kris Kristofferson joining Turner for his cover of Kristofferson’s 1973 song ‘Why Me’ and even into the 90s, with a cover of Jim Lauderdale’s ‘You Don’t Deem To Miss Me’ (1997). The song was made popular by Patty Loveless. There are even a pair of dips into the 80s with Turner’s take on Randy Travis’ hit song ‘Forever and Ever, Amen’ (1987) — Travis joined Turner for the performance in this record – his take on the 1986 Hank Williams, Jr./Roger Alan Wade song ‘Country State of Mind.’ Putting it simply, the compilation is essentially a musical history lesson of sorts about pure country music. Regardless of familiarity with the featured songs, it is a lesson that every listener will enjoy. Those listeners who are less familiar with the history of country music will use this record as a strong introduction to the genre’s roots while those who are more seasoned will welcome the trip back in time just as much as those who are new to the genre. This is just one aspect of the record that makes it so appealing. The arrangements featured in the songs add their own value to the record.
The arrangements featured in Josh Turner’s recently released covers compilation are important to note because they show Turner’s respect for the songs that he covered here. Case in point is his take on ‘The Caretaker.’ As Turner sings the song’s lyrics, he does something significant with his trademark baritone and makes it sound just like that of Johnny Cash. The shortness in the notes that he sings and the simple use of the vocals and guitar makes the song sound just like Cash’s original. The only difference between the two renditions (other than the fact that Turner replaces Cash’s name with his own in this version) is that Turner’s rendition does not have the subtle backing choral element that Cash used in his song. That’s not a detriment, either. It just gives Turner’s version its own identity that still pays full tribute to Cash’s original.
Turner’s cover of ‘Forever and Ever, Amen’ is another example of the importance of the album’s arrangements. Turner’s take on the timeless tune stays true to its source material for the most part. At the same time, he adds a subtle extra with the use of the bluegrass influence throughout the song at various points. The fiddle and mandolin that are audible in Turner’s take are not so much there in Travis’ original. There is a little bit more of a twang to the guitars in Turner’s take, too. Listening through both versions, one could actually argue that Turner’s cover is one of those songs that actually improves on the original.
Turner’s cover of Hank Williams Jr.’s ‘Country State of Mind’ is a near mirror image to Williams’ original, right down to the twang in Turner’s voice as he sings. He and Chris Janson collectively do so much to make this rendition a full tribute to the legacy not only of the song, but of Hank Jr. right down to the famous yodel at the song’s end. It is a full-on display of pure country music at its finest that the aforementioned listeners will appreciate and just one more example of the importance of the musical arrangements featured throughout Country State of Mind. Together with the rest of the album’s arrangements, the whole of the record’s musical content doe even more to show why Turner’s fans and country music purists alike will enjoy the compilation. Together with the songs themselves, the two elements collectively create a strong foundation for the compilation. Resting atop that foundation is the record’s sequencing.
The sequencing of Country State of Mind is interesting in its own right. That is because it never stays too happy or sad for too long throughout the record’s 41-minute run time. It starts out on a relatively upbeat note in ‘I’m No Stranger to the Rain’ and continues in that fashion in the record’s second song, ‘I’ve Got It Made.’ From there, the record’s energy pulls back momentarily in Turner’s cover of ‘Why Me’ before picking back up again in the record’s title track. His cover of ‘I Can Tell By The Way You Dance’ keeps the record’s energy up a little bit longer before surrendering again in ‘Alone and Forsaken.’ From this point on, the subtle ups and downs in the album’s energies is stable right to its subdued finale, that noted cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘The Caretaker.’ Looking back through the record’s arrangements, their energies clearly show a certain amount of time and thought was put into the record’s sequencing. The result is that it never stays one way or another for too long. This ensures in its own way, that listeners will remain engaged and entertained through this aspect just as much as through the compilation’s content. All three elements combined make the record a compilation that while yes, it is a bunch of covers, is a record that proves without question that pure country is still alive and well. What’s more, that Turner made the choice to take on these classic pure country tunes shows that there are those who want to keep it alive once more.
Real, pure, country music is not dead. There is a generation of artists out there today that is doing its part to ensure this is known, despite so many critics wanting people to believe otherwise. Josh Turner’s recently released covers compilation Country State of Mind is just the latest proof that pure country is alive. The record’s songs serve as a musical history lesson and musical tribute to the roots of pure country all in one. The arrangements featured within those songs add their own appeal to the compilation. That is because they stay largely true to their source material while adding a subtle extra to each song, giving each even more enjoyment. The sequencing of the songs and their arrangements puts the finishing touch to the record’s presentation, ensuring once and for all, listeners’ engagement and entertainment. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this record as has been pointed out here. All things considered, they make the record a presentation that proves pure country music is alive and well and that there are those out there who are working to keep it alive. Country State of Mind is available now.
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