MCA Nashville recording artist Josh Turner, while a multi-platinum-selling star himself, is a country music fan first and foremost. He’s even concocted his own version of Mount Rushmore conceived solely of country music legends. Turner’s “Mount Rushmore of Country Music” boasts five faces rather than four (it’s his mountain, after all) — Randy Travis, John Anderson, Johnny Cash, Vern Gosdin, and Hank Williams.
The giants carved into the granite of Turner’s musical soul form the core of his aptly titled new album, Country State of Mind. “I’ve always said that any song you hear coming from my voice, you’re going to hear bits and pieces of those five guys,” he says. “They taught me how to be Josh Turner.”
“When I was growing up, before I moved to Nashville, I was crazy about sad songs,” he says. “There has always been a part of my heart that has loved those sad, lonesome, and slow songs.”
Turner chose his guests as carefully as he did his material, selecting artists who shared his love and respect for the material. “I wanted artists I knew have an appreciation for traditional country music,” he says. Besides heroes Travis and Anderson, Turner invited Country Music Hall of Famer Kris Kristofferson to record a new version of his 1973 chart-topper “Why Me” with him. The title track, originally a 1986 hit for Hank Williams Jr., becomes a duet with fellow Grand Ole Opry member Chris Janson. The members of Runaway June take George Jones’ part on “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me,” and Maddie & Tae sing with Turner on “Desperately,” a 2004 single for George Strait and the album’s newest song. Country State of Mind also includes songs originally made famous by Keith Whitley (“I’m No Stranger to the Rain”), Waylon Jennings (“Good Ol’ Boys” Theme from The Dukes of Hazzard), and Alan Jackson (“Midnight in Montgomery”).
From the very start of his career through chart-topping hits like “Your Man,” “Would You Go With Me,” “Why Don’t We Just Dance,” and “All Over Me,” Turner has immersed himself in country music’s history and its iconic figures. After all, this is someone who, as a student at Nashville’s Belmont University, took an open gate on Johnny Cash’s property as a sign he should knock on the legendary singer’s door and introduce himself.
“The doorknob wiggles, the door swings open, and there stands Johnny Cash,” Turner recalls. “He and I both jump back, because he didn’t expect to see me, and I sure didn’t expect him to answer the door.”
Later, as the hits came, along with multiple GRAMMY, CMA, and ACM nominations, Turner joined the Grand Ole Opry. One of country music’s oldest and most hallowed traditions, the Opry once counted Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Cash, and George Jones among its ranks; now, Turner shares membership with heroes like Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, and Patty Loveless, as well as guest Chris Janson.
For nearly two decades, Turner has been one of country music’s most recognizable voices, selling more than 8.5 million units and amassing more than 2.5 billion global streams. He has never kept his reverence for traditional country music a secret, but, with this latest album, Josh Turner is definitely in a Country State of Mind.
Really, though, he always has been.