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Josh Turner

Long Black Train – 2003 (MCA Nashville)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

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CDs by Josh Turner

Though his album's just now getting out - originally scheduled for a spring release, it got pushed back when its first single failed to crack the top 40 last winter - Turner's already a favorite at the Grand Ole Opry, and it's easy to see why. Just 25, the South Carolina native sounds like a cross between Randy Travis and the Statler Brothers' Don Reid, with the rich, deep baritone of the former and the pleasantly mournful nasality of the latter. It's a great sound, and when it's applied to solid, unmistakably country songs, the result is one of the strongest debut albums of the year.

Kicking off with the title cut, a four-minute, classic-sounding gospel songthat's been inching up the charts, Turner's CD is hard core country almostall the way, with plenty of fiddle, steel guitar, mandolin, acoustic guitarand Dobro to keep things down to earth.

From the purportedly autobiographical "Backwoods Boy" to the bittersweet ballad "She'll Go On You" to the wryly humorous, up-tempo "What It Ain't" - a list of things love isn't that the singer's learned the hard way - Turner gives commanding, confident renditions that make him sound more like a veteran than a newcomer. Only an awkward, unnecessary cover of "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" interrupts the consistent, satisfying flow from the album's start to finish. Program your CD player around it and the collection's a 100-percent winner.