Originally from South Carolina, Josh Turner released his debut album in 2003 and won over fans with his unique deep bass sound. Since then he has amassed nine more LPs – most recently the 2021 Christmas record, ‘King Size Manger’ – as well as five number one US country singles, 4.8 billion international streams and six and a half million record sales. Now, ahead of the release of his debut greatest hits album in September, he’s back in the UK for his ‘Long Black Train’ 20th anniversary tour – his first since going live in 2019 – including two sold-out returns. Tours of London’s Union Chapel.
Arriving on stage at 9pm with his three piece band, Turner opened the set with ‘Hometown Girl’ from his 2017 album ‘Deep South’. It had a more classic rock feel about it than the album version, and I was also impressed by lead guitarist Austin’s solo towards the end. Just like Turner’s smooth, rich vocals were in perfect harmony and the crowd was singing along the entire song (and it didn’t stop for the rest of the show!). It was a great way to kick things off and set the tone for the rest of the evening.
What followed was a 20-year journey into musical history, with Turner cutting through his time in the business and telling stories about his career and inspiration, such as the intro to ‘I Pray My Way Out of Trouble’, which mentions first discovering it in his grandfather’s music collection. From the differences between UK and US terminology (making us all wonder what a ‘dry rise’ is), the UK’s current heat wave – including being handed over by a fan – and his band member joked about it all. Austen’s ‘English name’ in customs, also referring to his trip to the British Museum and his appeal to certain sections of the public ‘dressed less than I am’. The audience was pumped and I felt like he found him warm and relaxed on stage, which made him a very easy performer to connect with.
One thing that stood out to me in particular was Turner’s versatility as an artist, whether it’s his playful side with guitar flourishes on ‘Firecracker’ and the flirty ‘You All Over Me’, or the uplifting, soulful ‘It’s All Right’ and ‘Time’s Love’ on the simple but Their loving quality, catchy vocals and witty touches (thanks to Fard and mandolin player Shawn who did a total masterpiece!). We also get songs we haven’t heard from his previous tour, including the pop-influenced ‘Left Hand Man’ – the wedding song of the ages – and ‘Country State Of Mind’, which features one of Turner’s first name checks. A night for London with the crowd rocking and even a little yodeling at the end! It’s very easy for artists with long careers and extensive back catalogs to just stick to the hits, but I liked that he threw in some stuff and it was fun to hear him explore it further.
That said, all the fan favorites were still present and correct, from ‘Deep South’, which delivered a ‘biblical dance move’ before hitting a surprisingly low note as Turner stepped up two steps alongside the band, to the bright, happy ‘Me and God’ with a celebratory feel. . Elsewhere, the lively ‘You’ll Walk With Me’ rocked at a high tempo and gave great balance to Turner’s vocals, while the upbeat and swinging ‘Why Don’t We Dance’ couldn’t be swayed along, especially as Turner encouraged the crowd to clap (though to be fair, they didn’t need much help with this!).
Turner closed the set with his signature hit ‘Your Man’, which he dedicated to ‘all you ladies in the Union Chapel’. The song was my highlight of the night and I loved the cheeky touch Turner threw in as he glanced into the crowd and delivered the song’s romantic lyrics in a way that glided over the music. As the crowd finished and left the stage, they were chanting and chanting ‘one more song’. At the sound of a train whistle, he soon returned, “Are you still here?” he asked. Before you start in – what else? – “The Long Black Train”. The crowd was clapping and singing along to the beat, and quite a few audience members could literally be seen dancing in the aisles! After one more mention of London, Turner finished the song to a standing ovation from the audience before throwing his guitar pick into the crowd.
All in all, Josh Turner delivers another great performance, showing why he’s been in the music business for so long and is still at the top of his game. Brightly enhanced by those unique sounds in Union Chapel’s beautiful acoustics and still as strong as ever, he also showcases the sounds and styles that have inspired his music over the decades and showcases his talent as a stage performer and performer. It all added up to a wonderful evening. He said earlier that he ‘hopes to be back sooner but things happen’ – here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too long next time! And for now, there’s still that greatest hits album to look forward to…
Prepare list: 1. Hometown Girl 2. Firecracker 3. Deep South 4. Left Hand Man 5. Country Mind 6. Me and God 7. I Pray Out of Trouble (Osborne Brothers Cover) 8. I Saw the Light (Hank Williams Cover) 9. Over Me 10 .You’ll Go With Me 11. Everything’s Fine 12. Time Is Love 13. Why Don’t We Just Dance 14. Your Man Enter: 15. Long black train Performance Date: July 13, 2023
Josh Turner’s new album ‘Best Hits’ is set to be released on September 8, 2023 at MCA Nashville/UMG.