All throughout country music history, many artists have nicknames. George Jones is known as "The Possum." Bill Anderson is known as "Whisperin' Bill," and Josh Turner might become known by one of two different monikers that fans will hear on his new album, "Punching Bag."
With a title like that, a light went off in Turner's head. "I had an idea to ask (wrestling announcer) Michael Buffer to intro the record, and do a video thing for our live show. He did it, which was above and beyond what we asked him to do. My manager and I wanted to have two or three nicknames, and the first one that came to mind was 'Tornado of Testosterone,' which the Riders In The Sky gave me one night at the Grand Ole Opry," he said with a laugh. "At the same time, we needed another, so I came up with 'The Bone Shakin' Baritone.'"
Whether either name will stick is up for a good natured debate, but the music on the disc has gotten some of the best reviews of Turner's decade-long career. The first single, "Time Is Love," has already made an impact -- on listeners (currently No. 15 on the Hot Country Songs chart), as well as the singer. "It's a song that speaks to the idea of quantity time more so than quality time," he says. "Quantity time -- getting to know people better and growing relationships-is the more important thing. To me, it's a great message, and it feels good and sounds good."
Turner wrote or co-wrote eight of the eleven cuts on "Punching Bag" at a cabin located on his property south of Nashville that has come to be a definite point of inspiration.
"I spent two years building this cottage, and faced a lot of obstacles and challenges in getting this built," he told Billboard. "But, I was building it for a purpose - to write songs in - to inspire my co-writers and myself, or anybody that walks in. I wanted it to be a place where ideas and creativity can flourish. I had so many things on my heart and that I wanted to write about. The first song that I wrote was called 'Moses,' which was about my dog, and the feelings and emotions I had about losing him. From there, the juices just started flowing."
There's plenty of music in the cabin - even a copy of Randy Travis's Storms Of Life, the first cassette Turner ever bought - in a shadowbox, but not much else in the way of distractions. That's the way he likes it. "It's fun to sit here without TV and no phone ringing off the hook. We can get down to the heart and core of each song." He adds that his productivity has increased since the cabin was completed in late 2010. "I think I've written 27 or 28 songs, and eight of the songs ended up on the record."
This time around, many of Turner's songs made the final cut. But, that's not always the case, he points out. "For me, I just have to choose the best songs period - whether I wrote them or not. I try to leave no stone unturned, but with this album -- I had plenty of time to write and to create."
While not likely a radio single, one of the highlights of the disc is the haunting "Pallbearer," which also features Marty Stuart and Iris DeMent. Turner admits the song comes from a personal place.
"I wrote that song with no commercial intentions whatsoever," he says. "A distant relative of mine had passed away, and I wasn't able to make it home for his funeral. My parents went, and they sent me a bulletin from the service, and I saw that my daddy had been asked to be a pallbearer. I started reading that name, and it's one you hear all the time. I thought of the emotions of being a pallbearer. I've been one a couple of times, and it's one of the most lonesome things you can do - especially if you know the person you're carrying. I didn't write the song specifically about him, but it was inspired about his death and his life. I came up with an idea about how this man had been in love with a woman, and she just turned her back on him. His emotions were like that of being a pallbearer, bearing the loss of this woman and the hardship and the pain that she had caused."
Turner will promote the album with appearances on PBS's "A Capitol Fourth" on July 4, and will appear July 11 on ABC's "Good Morning America."