Well well well. There is finally some movement on the Josh Turner front. Fans of the traditionally-leaning mainstream-signed artist have been waiting months, and sometimes years for new music that has been long promised, and long delayed. What was supposed to be the debut single from his new album called “Lay Low” was released all the way back on September 15th of 2014, and his last record Punching Bag was released four years ago.
Even Turner has remarked, “I’ve been working on this record for about 60 years now, it seems like anyway. Nobody is more ready to get it out there than me.” The delay is at least partly due to his label MCA Nashville replacing Curb Records as being the outfit best known on Music Row for endless delays in releasing new music, and not seeming to know what the hell do do with its artists not named Sam Hunt. Gary Allan recently switched from the imprint to a different one, and now finally Josh Turner has a new single to share with whatever fans haven’t forgotten he exists during the extended hiatus.
Unfortunately the new song “Hometown Girl” is not much to speak of. It’s not a bad song per se. It’s not Bro-Country, EDM, or R&B like we’ve seen dominate the mainstream, and even take more traditionally-oriented artists for a spin lately. If there is one saving grace in the delay in Josh Turner’s career, it’s that he’s been able to sit on the sidelines as these awful trends have come to pass, and just maybe will be allowed to stay true to his sound now that artists like Chris Stapleton are finding success, and singles that actually sound country are getting more traction these days. But none of this is illustrated in “Hometown Girl.”
This single sounds and feels very much like a compromise between Tuner and MCA Nashville. There are no electronic drums or ultra-buzzy cliche language we’ve become accustomed to from many mainstream singles, but ultimately it’s a song about a girl, and one that tries to paint an ideal picture of love based off of sometimes superficial qualifiers and idealistic expectations. It may not be objectifying, but it does give off the vibe of love as ownership. And this song idea has been done countless times.
You can see “Hometown Girl” as something Josh Turner was willing to sign off on and not feel stupid about it, while MCA Nashville thought it was catchy and trendy enough to at least get a little attention from radio. Whether it will or not remains to be seen, and probably has just as much to do with how well, and how hard MCA Nashville pushes the song to radio than any merits the song might have with fat cat program directors or radio listeners. What’s been so maddening about MCA Nashville’s recent malaise is that the artists appear to be paying for the label’s poor single decisions, and their poor efforts with promotion. Even “Hometown Girl” has been met with a half-assed push so far—no lyric or live video released to YouTube as of yet, and only moderate press coverage.
The song is fine, but it ultimately lands too far in the middle to either become or hit, or give his core fans any red meat to feast on. If “Hometown Girl” is what allows Josh Turner’s music career to finally lumber forward again, including (hopefully) with material that is more indicative of earlier in his career, then it could be taken as a sum positive. But as a song, “Hometown Girl” is pretty tepid, and quickly forgettable.