Review – Josh Turner’s “Hometown Girl”

josh-turner-hometown-girl

I think one of the biggest things missing from country radio nowadays is depth. And when I say depth, I mean depth in terms of star power. Country radio always used to have established A-listers, as well as solid B-level artists who you could always depend on to give you solid singles. This was the case as recent as the 2000s even and one of those solid B-level artists you could always depend on was Josh Turner. His music would never blow you away lyrically and were kept pretty simple, but most importantly listeners could easily connect with it. His strong vocals and the always leaning traditional instrumentation combined with this really made him a fan favorite of traditional crowds. Unfortunately with the rise of bro country and now Nashville pop, Turner was one of the artists that got cast aside in favor of the new flavors of the month. It’s now been four years since his last new studio album and his upcoming sixth studio album has yet to be announced. The first single off of it, “Lay Low,” was released two years ago and barely cracked the top 30. Now he’s back with the unnamed album’s second single, “Hometown Girl.”

Just by looking at the title I had a bad feeling Turner compromised with his label MCA Nashville. After all we’ve seen the same thing happen to Gary Allan’s latest singles, which are also off an album that has yet to be announced. David Nail and his label had to push like crazy to make “Night’s On Fire” a hit so he could release his new album Fighter. Unfortunately my suspicions of “Hometown Girl” being a compromise are confirmed. But fortunately it isn’t to the point of you can’t identify Turner (unlike Eric Paslay’s “High Class”). The instrumentation and production are a mix of modern and the usual Turner sound. In other words, it’s a very safe pop country sound. The song is about a boy looking for a “pretty little homegrown, hometown girl.” That’s it. Even by Turner’s standards, this is pretty lightweight stuff. Sure it goes into more details about the girl he wants, but it’s nothing ground breaking. It’s kind of annoying how most of the details he wants out of the hometown girl revolve around looks, but it isn’t anything misogynistic. Turner’s vocals sound pretty good as always and is probably the most interesting aspect about the song.

“Hometown Girl” is definitely not amongst Turner’s best singles. It’s nowhere close to great, but it isn’t terrible either. It’s just a boring, almost barebones song that plays it safe in all aspects. MCA Nashville will push the hell out of this song to make it a hit and at the rate it’s been rising on the airplay charts recently, it appears it should do better than the previous single “Lay Low” (which is a shame). It’s hard not to be disappointed about this song if you’re a Turner fan, but at the same time this is the (stupid) game he has to play if he wants to release his album. Hopefully it’s enough to appease his label and the album is a home run because I probably won’t remember “Hometown Girl” when looking back on the career of Josh Turner.

Grade: 5/10

Written by Marc Beeson and Daniel Tashian

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10 thoughts on “Review – Josh Turner’s “Hometown Girl”

  1. I find this song to be quite enjoyable. Not groundbreaking from a lyrical standpoint, that’s for sure, but there’s something about its melody that really catches my attention.
    By the way, the original version of ‘Hometown Girl’ was fiddle and dobro driven, but obviously fucking MCA nashville had to replace those instruments with electric guitars because hell, it sounded way too country.

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  2. I couldn’t agree more with the score.

    I’m stingingly sympathetic as to why Josh Turner has modernized his sound with this single in a last-ditch effort to try and get radio play. I truly am.

    But that said, this lacks any distinctive or memorable quality. His voice is the only thing recognizable here, and even that is held back by overproduction and a glaring amount of Auto-Tune. Not Joe Nichols’ “Undone” bad, but still obvious.

    There’s really nothing to add abut this song. It’s just dull and forgettable, yet serviceable. It doesn’t hurt the format in any way, but certainly doesn’t help either.

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    • Speaking of Joe Nichols, it strikes me that Josh Turner and Joe Nichols are doing very similar things nowadays. Their recent singles are almost identical in terms of radio marketability and country sensitivity. As a result, I also agree with Josh’s 5/10 score, and I agree with your sympathy toward Turner. We cannot fault Turner for wanting to stay with MCA and influence the country format as best he can. It’s a difficult situation for anyone.

      After listening to the song a few times now, it does have a certain infectious quality, in a good way. I would like to hear it on the local country stations. There are some memorable lyrics: “Couldn’t help but shine with a heart like that.” And there’s the images: “With a ribbon tying back those waterfall curls.” These are not groundbreaking lyrics, of course, but they are nicely done and far distant from the cheapness of the douches. So, I might give a 6/10 score…or even a 7/10 score in a generous mood.

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      • I’m personally feeling 5/10, and part of it is putting his track record in perspective.

        Frankly, Josh Turner has seldom EVER been deep with his music. Virtually all of his most-known songs are love and come-on songs that just don’t scratch beneath the surface. Lyrics are definitely his weakest link (though they’ve seldom ever been insulting to the intelligence either).

        So what has made Josh Turner’s music so enjoyable to date? The homey, instrumentally-driven production and Turner’s charismatic, flavorful baritone. The former is so welcoming that “Would You Go With Me” STILL sounds fresh and distinctive in its replay value, and the same is true with “Everything Is Fine” and “Your Man” in spite of their banalities. “Long Black Train” is really his only hit that has aimed to address something more, and even that is a sanitized, simplified retread of the sinning vs. redemption binary that has been integral to country and roots music since its inception. But that’s hardly the point: “Long Black Train” remains a deserved staple on playlists because everything is packaged and performed so damn well.

        *

        In contrast, “Hometown Girl” sounds too concessionary.

        Props to Turner for fighting hard to get the music he wants to release out there even if it means caving in on one or two songs to the industry overlords. Still, on its own merit, “Hometown Girl” clearly sounds like the product of Josh Turner giving up more yardage than label executives in that it lacks the homey, spacious production that has defined his discography as a whole, and his vocals struggle against the polished production.

        It’s just that type of song that, to my own ears, screams average and, thus, 5/10. But I do understand where you’re coming from.

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        • Yes, that’s a spot-on analysis. “The homey, instrumentally-driven production and Turner’s charismatic, flavorful baritone.” That captures his appeal perfectly.

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  3. This is alright. Obviously nothing groundbreaking, but there are enough details to make the song less bland. It is pretty infectious too.

    Also, the lyric video looks like it was made with assorted pictures from Tumblr.

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