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Country singer Turner goes 'Haywire'

Josh Turner
Josh Turner

"Why Don't We Dance" is a boot-clicking and hip-shaking tune, the kind of song that will make you grab a hand in a bar - or an arena.

"When we started playing that song towards the end of last year," said country singer and Hannah native Josh Turner, "it got a reaction from the first time we played it.

"They were getting up out of their seats and having a good time."

Does Turner dance to the song, too? He laughed at the question.

"My dancing days are over, on stage or not," he said. "The only dancing I'll do is slow dancing with my wife."

"Haywire," which is released Tuesday, is step in a different direction for Turner, the baritone singer whose voice burrows into melodies.

On his first album, "Long Black Train," he was trying to find his sound and establish himself in Nashville. The second, "Your Man," was commercially appealing and the third release, "Everything is Fine," displayed Turner's topical depth.

"This record is more about energy, passion and my vocals and getting people out of their seats," Turner said. "Especially with what's going on (in the world), I think people are looking for that."

This record isn't just about fun. It also displays Turner's growth and maturity as a songwriter and singer, one who isn't afraid to dip into other genres. On 2006's "Your Man," Turner recorded "No Rush," a duet with neo-soul singer Anthony Hamilton.

Turner, whom Blender magazine calls the country Barry White - something he doesn't object to - decided to put "Lovin' You On My Mind," a song with R&B chords, on "Haywire."

"It was a country song, but it had all the R&B flavor," Turner said of the song with Hamilton. "I felt like our vocals blended really well.

"I decided to go that route on this record."

"Lovin' You" has a soul tint. Turner's ad-libs - he says "well, well" after verses - are reminiscent of Hall and Oates, Jodeci and Luther Vandross, three performers who didn't have a country bone in them.

But Turner has an R&B rib cage.

"That's the one thing I've been trying to tell people (in Nashville) the last few years," said Turner, who listens to R&B stations to warm up before concerts.

"Not only was I immersed in the traditional sounds of country, but a lot of the people I grew up around, I learned a lot about R&B stuff from them.

"I took an interest because it was something different to sing."

There's contemporary gospel on the record, too. "The Answer" is a song about finding strength, and Turner's tunneling tones sound majestic when paired with a choir.

"This song kind of surprised us. We kind of let that song come out on its own," said Turner, a self-described Christian. "I had no idea where the song was going."

It was the last song he recorded for the record, one that brought tears to his eyes when it was completed. He let go on the track, too.

"I went in there with nothing to lose," Turner said. "I went in there and explored my upper range.

"That song felt like it wanted to bust loose, and that's what I let it do."

Turner travels his own road with his music. Do you think Kenny Chesney would stick a wrench in the traditional country formula?

Beville Darden, editor in chief of AOL's Music's country site theboot.com, said Tuner's R&B and gospel songs, "simply reflect him as a person and were likely his own choices for the album."

"So the inclusion of a few diverse songs on 'Haywire' is good for Josh," Darden continued, "in that it shows he's continuing to evolve as an artist, and may even gain a few new fans by doing so."

But it's scoring radio-friendly hits that pays the bills. And "Friday Paycheck" might help Turner cash in. He's singing for a lot of us who can't wait until payday.

"It just came out naturally," he said. "It's for those real people that we grew up around.

"Deep down, we're still those blue-collar Americans."

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