Review: Josh Turner at traditional best on new CD

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Josh Turner, "Punching Bag" (MCA Nashville)

Josh Turner, to his credit, continues to follow a creative path outside that of other contemporary country stars. It's not only his distinctive deep voice that sets him apart; it's also his openly religious persona (he includes at least one fundamental gospel tune on each album and testifies during concerts) and his dedication to traditional country arrangements that hold off on incorporating hard-rock or modern-pop flourishes.

On "Punching Bag," Turner stays the course, mixing Christian songs ("For the Love of God" and "I Was There") with uptempo novelty tunes (the title cut) and romantic songs that bop along to mid-tempo rhythms ("Left Hand Man").

Love songs continue to be his forte: The married father of three repeatedly finds ways to sing about love in clever, positive terms that fit his voice and personality without turning women or relationships into clichés.

From the moody bass lines and acoustic accents in "Time Is Love," about making his marriage a priority in his schedule, to the R&B-influenced guitar melody of "Good Problem," about how his obsession with loving his partner is the kind of dilemma he can handle, Turner once again proves he ranks among the most effective — and most hard-core country — performers of his generation.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: On "Cold Shoulder," Turner fully indulges his traditional country side. The album's lone heartbreak ballad, Turner sings it with an emotional subtlety reminiscent of Alan Jackson or George Strait.

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