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Punching Bag by Josh Turner

Though Josh has penned songs for previous albums, with this release he steps into his own as a songwriter with eight finely crafted contributions, such as the Vern Gosdin-esque ballad “Cold Shoulder,” written with Mark Narmore. Josh alone penned the stunning “Pallbearer,” which compares death with the loss of a lover. Marty Stuart and Iris DeMent guest on the gritty ballad, while Josh’s somber delivery recalls Johnny Cash’s most haunting vocal work.

The album’s lighter moments include “Deeper Than My Love,” which puts Josh’s richer-than-chocolate-pie lower vocal register to good use, a la 2008’s “Everything Is Fine.” His wife, Jennifer, and sons, Hampton, Colby and Crawford, guest on the family singalong “Find Me a Baby,” where Josh sings of finding his perfect woman and proposing quicker than a Richard Petty pit stop.

In keeping with his previous releases, he includes two religious-tinged tunes. The bluegrass-inspired “For the Love of God” features Ricky Skaggs’ banjo picking and harmony vocals. “I Was There” chronicles wars, moon landings and the milestones of a man’s life from the perspective of deity; though the lyrical content lacks originality, it is bolstered by moody instrumentation.

Far from being a punching bag, this album contains enough musical muscle to throw a few punches of its own.

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