Instead of calling Josh Turner’s latest album Punching Bag, it should’ve been called The Love Album. The are songs about good love, bad love, how love makes you feel; both good and bad, songs about the love of God and God’s love for us. With so many songs about love you wonder how ‘Punching Bag’, an upbeat song about getting knocked around by life, even made it on here.
The main problem with so many odes to love on one album is in its tone. They all tend to blend together, and leave you worn out on love. About half way through listening to the album, I found myself thinking as the next track started up ‘Is this another love song?’ The only song that rises somewhat above the lovesick problem of the album is ‘Left Handed Man’, a cute little turn-of-a-phrase didy about wanting to be hitched:
I’m gonna put a ring on your finger/
We’ll hire a wedding singer/
Invite everybody in town/
We’ll put a good preacher in the middle/
and make it official/
Dance ’till the sun goes down/
I can’t wait to get to show off my wedding band/
I’m gonna be your left hand man
What does separate the good from the run-off-the-mill on this album is the music behind lyrics. ‘Cold Shoulder’ has a sad, lamenting piano that will remind you of some of the more classic country songs; ‘Whatcha Reckon’ is a fairly decent swing-dancing tune; and ‘For the Love of God’ is bluegrass infused. All providing some variety in melody if not in theme.
The secondary problem of the album is that none of the songs really give Turner a chance to show off what he can do with that baritone voice. A couple of the songs come close, but none of them to achieve the same level classic greatness as ‘Long Black Train’ and ‘Your Man.’ A big part of the reason that we listen to Turner’s music is just to hear that thick, rich, sweet molasses voice of his dripping all over the verses. While having every song on an album similar to ‘Train’ would wear as thin just as easily as the love theme does here, I hope to find at least one or two songs of his to send shivers with the sound of his voice. With all the potential for that effect with these love songs on Punching Bag, it disappoints.
Also disappointing is the lack of photos of Turner within the CD booklet. The looks of this man are as much a part of his appeal as the voice. Punching Bag as an album title had a real good opportunity to showcase its just-touched-upon boxing theme while showcasing Turners stadium-light-wattage smile and blue eyes. All you get, though, is one photo on the cover and one on the back. I do applaud the fact that the lyrics and liner notes of the CD booklet are uncluttered; allowing them to actually be read, but that’s just part of why I buy albums. I buy them also to get a good gander at a good looking artist; especially when that artist is the testosterone baritone.
My advice about this album; listen to the tracks individually and see which ones you like best vs. buying the CD whole. If you do purchase the whole album itself, create some playlists from it. Taken individually the songs are fairly pleasant. As a whole, it’s just a tiring one-note theme.