On Friday (Oct. 26), earthen baritone singer and “Your Man” hitmaker Josh Turner will return with his seventh full-length studio album, I Serve A Savior, a full measure of gospel classics, as well as a few newly-penned songs of faith.
The album fulfills a long-held ambition for Turner, who first hit the country charts with the self-penned spiritual “Long Black Train” in 2003. The song was certified platinum by the RIAA. Turner has regularly incorporated faith-based music on his albums, including “The Answer,” “For The Love of God,” and “Me and God,” (a collaboration with Ralph Stanley), alongside his country hits such as the Platinum-selling “Hometown Girl” from 2016.
His new project features appearances from Bobby Osborne and Sonya Isaacs, with Isaacs offering harmonies on the classics “I Saw The Light” and “How Great Thou Art.” Another cut on the album, “The River (of Happiness),” was penned by his wife, Jennifer, and their oldest son, Hampton. All four of Turner’s children–Hampton, Colby, Marion and Samuel–sing on the track.
Turner discussed the album-making process for I Serve A Savior, which includes three songs recorded live at Gaither Studios in Alexandria, Indiana. In addition to the 12-track project, Turner recorded 90-minute live performance DVD of the new faith-based collection, filmed at Gaither Studios. The DVD includes an interview of Turner with gospel legend Bill Gaither.
MusicRow: You have made it a point to incorporate songs and themes of faith throughout your career. Has a full-fledged gospel album been on your bucket list for some time?
Yeah, my fans have been asking about one and my answer to them has always been, “It’s been on my list of things to do.” It’s something that is near and dear to my heart and I am very pleased and excited with how this project has come together and the fact that it’s finally here.
How did the song “The River (Of Happiness)” come about?
Hampton had been playing something on the mandolin, and Jennifer asked him what it was. He said it was something he made up, but she told him that’s actually how you write a song – to kind of make something up and start putting it together.
Jennifer asked him “When you play that, what do you see?” And he said, “I see a river.” She asked him to describe it, and Hampton called it a happy river. They ended up collaborating on it and writing “The River (of Happiness).” I thought it turned out really well.
What memories do these songs bring back for you?
Songs like “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” “Without Him,” those are all songs I grew up singing in church. “The Doxology” is also another song we sang in church every Sunday. The Hank Williams cover of “I Saw The Light,” that’s a song that I’ve always loved to play whereas “I Pray My Way Out of Trouble” is not a song that I played a lot, but it was one of the first songs I ever remember hearing in my life because of my granny’s record collection.
She had The Osborne Brothers hymns record and I remember hearing that song on there. Each and every song has its own set of memories to go along with it, but they’re all different.
What are your touring plans surrounding this album?
My touring schedule is pretty much set for the year. I don’t have a specific tour for this record, but I’ve already been out on the road telling people about this project, playing the title track. We are already booking dates for next year.
Sonya Isaacs is on two of the songs on this album. How did she come to be part of the album?
Kenny Greenberg, my producer, really wanted me to be involved in the background vocal process, and he wanted to get my ideas on each and every song. There were a couple of songs, “I Saw the Light” and “How Great Thou Art,” that I felt could use a featured female vocal, and the first person I thought of was Sonya Isaacs. I felt like she would be a perfect fit. So, I asked her, and she said yes. She did an incredible job on both of these songs. I’m honored to have her on this project.
Are there certain Christian music albums, or Christian albums by country artists, that really made an impact on you growing up, and why?
My granny’s record collection had everyone – Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Ernest Tubb, and The Stanley Brothers. Most of her record collection was gospel oriented. The whole gospel element has always been a part of country music, so I don’t think there is one specific album that I can think of from my childhood.
If I had to pick my favorite gospel record from a country artist, it would be Alan Jackson’s Precious Memories. I felt it came from an honest and innocent place, because he was doing this record for his momma. That record has always spoken to me because those songs were done like they would’ve been done in my church growing up, but with Alan Jackson’s voice. There was nothing in that record that distracted you from what the songs were really about. I’ve always thought that it was really well done.
I Serve A Savior Track Listing & Sequence:
1. I Saw The Light (Featuring Sonya Isaacs)
2. I Pray My Way Out Of Trouble (Featuring Bobby Osborne)
3. Great Is Thy Faithfulness
4. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
5. Without Him
6. I Serve A Savior
7. How Great Thou Art (Featuring Sonya Isaacs)
8. The River (of Happiness) Featuring the Turner family (Live From Gaither Studios)
9. Amazing Grace
10. Long Black Train (Live From Gaither Studios)
12. Me And God (Live From Gaither Studios)
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