After last year’s Your Man transformed him from one-hit wonder into a bona fide country star, Josh Turner could have easily looked to build on his success by embracing the slick pop-country of his bigger-selling contemporaries like Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood. It’s something of a surprise, then, that Turner’s third album, Everything Is Fine, finds the singer digging in his heels and making a record that’s even more traditional country than its predecessor. Its adherence to traditionalism doesn’t, on its own, make Everything is Fine a good album; Turner’s growth as a vocalist and his selection of stronger material, however, make it his best work to date.
The album’s two standout moments are its collaborations: “Another Try,” on which Trisha Yearwood provides a predictably stellar harmony vocal, and “Nowhere Fast,” a duet with R&B singer Anthony Hamilton that’s a far more effective cross-genre pairing than anything Big & Rich have attempted. Of his solo tracks, Turner’s cover of Johnny Horton’s “One Woman Man” and the traditional (in the “Danny Boy” sense) ballad “The Longer the Waiting (The Sweeter the Kiss)” showcase his more mature sense of phrasing and his improved control of his distinctive bass-baritone. Turner is still not quite on the same level as his obvious stylistic forebear, Randy Travis, but Everything Is Fine is the first of his albums to suggest that someday he could be.
The album, however, isn’t without its flaws, the most serious of which is Turner’s songwriting. While there isn’t anything as problematic as Your Man‘s passively racist “White Noise,” lead single “Firecracker” is a throwaway novelty record built on awkward rhymes and bad puns, while every second of “Trailerhood” is the nightmare that its title suggests. Compared to the stronger cuts like “Nowhere Fast” and the catchy “So Not My Baby,” only “South Carolina Low Country” holds its own. That song plays like something of a mission statement, accounting for the album’s overall sound and spelling out Turner’s influences and point of view. At this point, that sound and point of view are still more distinctive than good, but Everything is Fine is the first of his albums to place him in the company of mainstream country acts like Brad Paisley, LeAnn Rimes, and Dierks Bentley—who merit real discussion as artists worth taking seriously.