Hey look, a Josh Turner sighting! But if this is the kind of material he’s come back to release, I’d have preferred that he stay missing.
Josh Turner’s first decade in country music was relatively successful, as he managed to achieve commercial success (four No. 1 hits and another two No. 2 hits) while maintaining a reputation as a staunch country traditionalist. Decade number two, however, has not been as kind: After his 2014 single “Lay Low” (which I thought was excellent, for what’s is worth) stalled at #25, Turner disappeared from the scene completely for nearly two years, prompting a lot of speculation (including from yours truly) as to why he had gone (or been forced) into hiding. When he re-emerged in 2016 with “Hometown Girl,” his sound was a bit more modern and trendy than I expected, and while the song eventually became peaked at #2 on Billboard’s airplay chart, it took almost an entire year to get there (and to add insult to injury, it was unceremoniously blocked from the top by Sam Hunt’s “Body Like A Back Road” and had to settle for a Mediabase #1). “All About You” is the third single off of Turner’s long-awaited album Deep South, and it features Turner becoming even more modern and trendy with his sound, with disastrous results.
The irony of Turner’s production update is that he only made it into the Bro-Country era, which is already starting to feel dated. The song opens with a prominent drum machine and a banjo that, unlike the one from High Valley’s “She’s With Me,” just screams “token country instrument.” A dobro jumps in to assist the banjo in between verses, and some real drums and electric guitars eventually join the mix, but the whole mix just feels it trying too hard to come across as down-home and “countrified,” and winds up feeling choppy and inauthentic. (To be honest, the dobro makes the track feel more sleazy than anything else.) Turner’s sound has always been grounded in traditional instrumentation (fiddle, steel guitar, acoustic guitars, and even some mandolin, none of which are present here), and this sort of modern production does not suit or flatter him at all. Frankly, it sounds more like a Florida-Georgia Line reject that Turner’s label forced him to record.
Vocally, “All About You” is about as poor a match for Turner’s voice as you could possibly get. His calling card has always been his rich, deep baritone, and he can comfortably reach depths that few other artists would even dare to attempt. This song, on the other hand, traps Turner exclusively in the upper portion of his range (save for a deep dive on the outro), making him sound almost generic as a result. While Turner’s a good-enough singer to make chicken salad out of this chicken you-know-what (his flow is pretty good, and he still comes across as believable in the narrator’s role), the song just isn’t compelling or interesting, and without his voice’s most potent quality, Turner is powerless to do anything about it.
I’ve never considered Turner to be much of a songwriter, but even he could have done a better job with the lyrics than what we ended up with:
I don’t care what we do, what we don’t girl
I’m just freaking digging living in your world
You got the hot, I gotta get next to
Where we go, where we get, how we get down
Don’t matter girl, as long as we’re getting around
Just messing around, baby ooh, baby ooh
While the track avoids the outright misogyny of most Bro-Country tracks and tries to empower the woman is references by saying “it’s all about you,” the sentiment rings a bit hollow next to lyrics like those posted above. Additionally, the phrasing in this song is beyond clumsy (see the bizarre “got the hot” line above), and the use of terms like “hillbilly” and “that there boy” come across as a desperate attempt to boost the singer’s country credentials by making them sounds backwoods and folksy. Oh, and for good measure they threw in a reference to writing an ooh-ooh-ooh “song,” which Thomas Rhett already did (and did a lot better). Seriously, MCA Nashville waited five years in between Turner’s album releases and couldn’t find songs any better than this?
Overall, “All About You” is a Josh Turner song that doesn’t sound anything like Josh Turner. It comes across as a poorly-conceived, half-baked attempt by Turner’s label to “update” his sound and image to fit a trend that’s already on its way out, and the fact that the current trend towards a more-traditional country sound would have fit Turner’s classic style perfectly makes it all the more frustrating when we end up getting garbage like this instead.
Josh Turner deserves better than this.
Rating: 3/10. Stay away from this one.