It’s never a good sign when an artist’s new album opens with its first two singles. That’s just what Josh Turner's fourth album, Haywire, does, with the obligatory modern-day honky tonker “Why Don’t We Just Dance?” and the faux-sensitive macho ballad “I Wouldn’t Be a Man.” Producer Frank Rogers tried admirably to make a more organic-sounding record than 2007’s Justin Niebank-helmed Everything Is Fine. This doesn’t mean it's "traditional" in any sense; Haywire is a thoroughly contemporary country record, but is reined in sonically with more acoustic instrumentation, less compression, and vocals placed properly in their relation to the instrumental mix. That said, something got lost along the way: Turner's massive personality which, along with his deep baritone, is his trademark in a cookie-cutter industry. More than anything else, it’s the song choices that make this set sound so flat. Most of Turner's own tunes don’t have the same "pop" they had on previous records. The title track is simply a set of contemporary country cliches strung together, and “As Fast As I Could” sounds trite and insincere. The best thing here isn’t even a country song: "Lovin’ You on My Mind” is an attempt at a fusion of country, adult contemporary pop, and soul, complete with strings, a Rhodes piano, and a female backing chorus. It feels sincere, and with its layered arrangement, it works well. Turner's “Eye Candy” weaves rockabilly, country boogie, and honky tonk, and would be a good choice for a single, because it's the only other distinctive track on the set. Everybody’s got to miss sometime, and on Haywire, Turner does by a mile, despite his no doubt good intentions in taking some of the slickness off the contemporary country sound.
by Thom Jurek