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Josh Turner is the man

By Jeffrey B. Remz, January 2006

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"John has always been an influence of mine," says Turner. "He's always been a hero. I've always just really dug what he has done...You know John Anderson when he opens his mouth. It is very distinctive and undeniable and unmistakable. It was kind of the same situation with Ralph. John had seen the 'Long Black Train' video and had gotten in touch with somebody at my label that he knew and told them how much he had loved 'Long Black Train', and he wanted to meet."

"I went out to John's house, and that was where I got to meet him and got to hang out with him. We got to sit around and play some songs together. It was a cool moment for me because I was a big fan of his."

The two collaborated on "White Noise," which also features Anderson. Turner expects the song to generate listeners' reactions.

The song includes the lines:"I'm talkin' 'bout a white noise
Comin' from the white boys
I can't keep my cowboy boots from stompin'
To that white noise
Comin' from the white boys
Take me where those honkies are a tonkin'"

Later, Turner makes it clear the idea of white noise crosses racial boundaries:

"It ain't a thing 'bout black and white
It's Johnny Cash and Charlie Pride
That's what I call white noise
Comin' from the real McCoys"

The idea first stemmed from Turner listening to an Ernest Tubb live album recorded in 1965 where "you could obviously tell there were people...They were eating. It was a laid back atmosphere. You could hear silverware clanging in the background. You could hear those big flashbulbs going off on their cameras that they had back then, people rustling and talking in the background."

"There was all of this background noise, it just made you feel like you were there. I got to thinking there's the aural technological term 'white noise'. That means one thing."

"I got to thinking Ernest Tubb is white noise, George Jones...Merle Haggard...Hank Williams, even Charley Pride is white noise. That idea kind of stuck with me - white noise coming from the white boys - that kind of idea. Even the black blues musicians from a long time ago, they always called country music the white man's blues...When I presented it to John, he loved the idea. He and I got together immediately. We wrote the song in no time."

"The last verse...we had those two names in there, but we didn't lead up to those names...originally. Frank Rogers was really wanting us to drive the point home that this is not a racial song. It's not about the color of someone's skin. It's not about that subject really. It's about a sound, a genre of music."

"You should be able to tell that from what we've already written."

"I've even spent time with Charley Pride myself and got to talk with him about certain things. And how he got into this business. He told an interesting story about how when he first got into country music, his family gave him such a hard time about what he was doing (and) they were saying, 'Charley why do you want to go sing their music?' He was saying, 'this is my music too'."

"I realize the fact that it could be misconstrued, but those kind of people...don't get me started. There were a lot of people who misconstrued 'Long Black Train'. They thought I was encouraging suicide by standing on a railroad, which is so ludicrous."

While "Long Black Train" was a hit for Turner back in 2003, it also proved controversial thanks to the video. A pregnant teen, a homeless person and other down and outers were shown with a train running through them. Some apparently thought the video was focused on suicide, drawing the ire of several railroad groups concerned about the portrayal of the train industry.

"I've had people call my management company and publishing company," says Turner, who was none too happy at the time and still isn't. "A lot of them hadn't even seen the video. You deal with those kind of people who can't get the point sometimes."

As for "White Noise," Turner says, "the majority of the people will get it. If they don't, we'll just have a talk."

As for the spiritual/bluegrass side of the Turner mix, he enlisted the help of bluegrass icon Ralph Stanley and Diamond Rio for the faith-based song "Me and God."

"I was sitting around my apartment one day. This is before I was married. I was writing one day, and this song just kind of came out. This was a personal song. I didn't expect it to be on a record of mine. I didn't really have any intention or ideas of how to use that song. When I wrote it, it was just a song for me. It was a song about me and my Lord. It may be simple for some. It may be complex for some. It is what it is."

The idea of asking Stanley to participate was the idea of Turner's manager. Turner says Stanley saw the "Long Black Train" video and heard the song.

"He and I had met several times at the Opry and had gotten to know each other a little bit. He had invited me out to Virginia to do his (bluegrass) festival last year. We did that, and that was a lot of fun. When it came time to ask him about this song, first time he heard it, he said he would do it. It was a huge compliment that he was willing to put his vocals on there."

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