heroes and floods

josh turner. photo by george holz.

josh turner. photo by george holz.

All was right with the world when Josh Turner and his band took to the road earlier this month to open concerts in Indiana and Illinois for country megastar Alan Jackson.

After all, the South Carolina born traditionalist’s fifth album, Haywire, has been selling plentifully since its February release while its leadoff single, Why Don’t We Just Dance, became a month-long No. 1 country hit.

While Turner and Jackson performed the Midwest, however, the rains hit back home. By the time Turner returned to Nashville the following Monday, much of the city was submerged. It didn’t help that the singer and his crew has parked their cars prior to the road trip near the Grand Ole Opry in an area ravaged by some of Nashville’s worst flooding in decades.

“We were glued to the Weather Channel and looking online at what the weather was doing during those three days on the road,” Turner said. “Everybody was kind of frantic. There was only one of my guys who had the sense to think, ‘Hey, I need to send somebody to get my car.’ When we rolled in Monday morning, all of our cars were under water. But our families were safe.

“There is a strong sense of community down here, though. Everybody’s rebounding pretty good. People have really stepped up and helped their neighbors rebuild.”

One hopes fairer weather, at home and on the road, will accompany Turner when he opens for Jackson on Sunday at Rupp Arena. But it will take an even nastier deluge to sour the fun of getting to tour with a major country music inspiration.

“Alan Jackson is a hero of mine,” Turner said. “He’s a beacon for songwriters like myself.

“I remember when I was 17, I think this was back in ‘95, I bought one of his books with the sheet music and the chord diagrams from his record Who I Am. That’s one of my favorite records. I just lived with that book for months. It was just simple, three-chords-and-the-truth country music. And I think he has stayed true to that.”

Turner has remained just as true to his own hearty traditionalist brand of country music since the spiritually inclined Long Black Train, which doubled as a vehicle for his smoky, unfrilly singing, became a hit in 2003.

“That song opened a lot of doors for me,” Turner said. “It helped me get my publishing deal. It helped me get my record deal. It was the first song I ever played at the Opry. It was the title track to my first album. It was my first hit.

“After Long Black Train became such a huge song and launched my career, you started noticing a lot of those types of songs coming out. Artist after artist were putting out these faith-based, spiritual type songs. It was flattering, but I don’t really consider myself a trendsetter. I’ve always tried to just carve out my own path and walk my own road, like my heroes did – people like Alan, Randy Travis, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. But that song definitely sparked something in the Nashville community.

“I’ve had so many people asking me the same thing after that song hit. ‘Why the faith-based stuff? Why the spiritual songs?’ And I kept telling them, ‘Why are you all so surprised?’ Even back in the early ‘30s, the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and all these great artists were singing about God. And people considered that country music. Same with Hank Williams. Same with Ernest Tubb, the king of honky tonk and Roy Acuff, the king of country music.

“People want to be energized. They want to be lifted up.”

Alan Jackson, Josh Turner and Chris Young perform at 7 p.m. May 23 at Rupp Arena. Tickets are $39.75, $59.50. Call (859) 233-3535, (800) 745-3000.

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