Gone Country: Josh Turner’s “Hometown Girl” sounds familiar…

Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where it’s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week. For info about album releases and concerts, check out this week’s Country Music Roundup.

Josh Turner fans, rejoice! The singer has finally come out with a new song from his upcoming album that’s long been in development hell. But it’s a little bittersweet.

Turner’s last studio album, “Punching Bag,” was released in 2012, and the only new music he put out between then and now is single “Lay Low,” which was released in 2014 and failed to get a lot of radio traction.

Josh Turner

Josh Turner.

Turner says the hiatus isn’t his doing: “If it were up to me, I would have had an album out in 2013,” the deep baritone singer told the Albuquerque Journal in 2015. “There have been a lot of business issues that have popped up and I’m just pushing forward. The new music is there and I want to get it out to my fans.”

“Lay Low” will be on the new album, as will “Hometown Girl,” his latest single.

As a standard country song, “Hometown Girl” is perfect. It’s exactly what one would expect from Turner, who made his name paying homage to old-school country via his deep baritone and conservative values.

But as Turner’s first song in two years, it’s a bit lackluster. The song is catchy, and it’s not attempting to cash in on any of the gimmicks of the moment (not Turner’s style), but it doesn’t stand out as much as “Long Black Train” or “Why Don’t We Just Dance.” It almost sounds like a compromise between Turner and his label, MCA Nashville, a “one for me, one for them” mentality so Turner can get out the rest of his new album.

Maybe it was designed that way.

Other artists from the label, such as Gary Allan, have had albums on indefinite hiatus as well. His last album, “Set You Free,” was released in 2013, and was supposed to have a follow-up released in 2015, according to an interview he gave to Rolling Stone. But it’s 2016, and there’s still no album, and the lead single he released, “Hangover Tonight,” sounds like a marked departure from his early work.

Maybe Turner and Allan wanted to make their songs that way, who knows. Certainly, it’s expected for artists to change their sound. But it’s not far-fetched to think that maybe they would just want to get something out there quick for their respective fans. However, neither Turner nor Allan has apologized for their early songs, as some artists have as of late.

Acts like Dierks Bentley and Chase Rice, two of the more pop-sounding country artists today, both recently apologized to their fans for recent singles that were decidedly more pandering than their typical output.

“Somewhere on a Beach” (Bentley) and “Whisper” (Rice) are both radio-ready songs that were engineered to do well on the charts. It’s worked so far for Bentley— “Somewhere” is currently at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Country chart. Both artists have also offered some pretty staunch mea culpas for the songs, too. Rice wrote a letter to his fans about “Whisper,” saying he knows the sex jam isn’t really substantial, but that his new album (a word he underlined six times in the letter) would be.

Bentley, on the other hand, offered up an “it is what it is” explanation for his breakup-beach anthem. At a February show at Nashville’s Country Radio Seminar, he thanked radio programmers for playing the song so he could focus on the heavier aspects of his new album, “Black.”

It’s almost as if these artists just want to get out there and make new music without getting bogged down in compromises. Here’s hoping that Turner’s new album is exactly what he wanted to make, nothing more and nothing less.

 


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