Country/gospel singer Josh Turner will perform songs from a new Christmas album in December at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center in The Villages.
Tickets can be purchased at GetOffTheBusConcerts.com, TheSharon.com or (352) 753-3229.
Turner’s most cherished childhood holiday memories are listening to Randy Travis’ “An Old Time Christmas,” as it was the soundtrack for the holiday season at his Hannah, SC home. When Turner set out to record his first Christmas album “King Size Manger,” Travis’ country Christmas collection was his haunt.
Turner didn’t want a Frank Sinatra brass section or a 100-piece orchestra. He planned to create a timeless country Christmas album that he could imagine his family’s neighbors were listening to in South Carolina.
“I just got it ingrained in my mind that you have all this other Christmas music out there, but when it comes to growing up in the country and the lifestyle that comes with a country upbringing” Randy’s record, that’s all, you know?’ Turner admitted. “I had just fooled myself into thinking I had to do volume two.”
Turner’s “King Size Manger” is his dream come true – and more. “King Size Manger” is a collection of traditional country versions of classic Christmas songs with original tunes plus Hawaiian, bluegrass and swing sprinkled into the mix. Turner wrote three of the four original songs and arranged five tracks on the 11-song album.
His rich, distinct baritone wraps around each song like a cozy blanket on a snowy morning. Holiday classics including “The First Nowell” (with the song’s traditional spelling) and “Silent Night, Holy Night” get even more nostalgic, and the originals “King Size Manger,” “What He’s Given Me,” Soldier’s Gift” and “Mele Kalikimaka My ‘Ohana’ embraces the feel of centuries-old Christmas traditions.
“I let my heart out,” Turner said. “Each of them I helped reshape and recreate because a lot of those songs had been done so many times. Making a Christmas record can be a daunting task for an artist. There are so many songs to choose from and there have been so many versions of these songs throughout history it can be daunting to know if you will be able to live up to what has already been done and when i get to At this point, I take a step back and remind myself that I have to do what I hear in my heart. You might be surprised to hear my arrangement on some of those songs you know so well. We got together a lot. fun throwing away all the preconceptions of what a Christmas record should sound like. In my opinion, it’s about the words and the heart and soul of how a song sounds. You don’t need of jingle bells on a song to make it a Christmas song.
For two decades, Turner’s deep, velvety voice has been the most recognizable on country radio. His unwavering dedication to the tenets of the country genre inspired a generation of country singers and bolstered an underserved segment of the fan base.
For just as long, Turner has been outspoken about his dedication to his Christian faith. He released his gospel album “I Serve a Savior” in 2018, after waiting for what seemed like the right time between mainstream projects. He was equally intentional with the release of his first full Christmas album, which fans have been asking for since the start of his career. To prepare, he wrote Christmas songs for a year before recording. If planning “King Size Manger” was daunting due to the sheer volume of Christmas albums available and the number of times many holiday favorites had been recorded, then trying to come up with new ideas for an original Christmas song was downright daunting. .
“You have Santa Claus, and you have Jesus, and most of these songs have been written,” he laughed. “You’re a bit on the cutting edge of creative ideas, so I really had to dig deep and try to find some clever little turns of phrase and twists.”
When the idea for the song “King Size Manger” came to mind, Turner said it was also intimidating. He knew the concept was solid and didn’t want to spoil it. Turner entrusted the plot to his longtime friend and co-writer Mark Narmore. The men wrote hundreds of songs together, but when Turner shared the idea, Narmore was speechless.
“He was like, ‘What a title!'” Turner recalled. “He and I have such a relationship and are comfortable enough with each other to allow heart and soul to flow out of a song we’re trying to write. We sat down and knew that we just had to tell the story of what a king crib is and why it is a king crib. So that’s what we did.”
“King Size Manger,” the album’s title track, tells the prophecy and story of Jesus’ birth powerfully expressed in simple words and amplified by Turner’s fiery, honest delivery. The lyrics include:
There in the hills of Bethlehem
No one had room for them
They knew that kid was real life changing Lying there in a king size crib
“I was so proud of it when we finished the song,” Turner said. “I was a bit surprised and shocked that we could achieve this.”
Turner and Nashville-based singer-songwriter Pat McLaughlin were inspired by Ralph Stanley’s version of “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” when they wrote the banjo-fronted midtempo bluegrass “What He’s Given Me.” . Turner is the sole writer for the Hawaiian-influenced film “Mele Kalikimaka My ‘Ohana” (starring Jake Shimabukuro and Ho’okena), inspired by a birthday trip he took to the island with Turner’s wife, Jennifer. Affirmed by its unique harmonies, ukulele and strum patterns, its sound makes “Mele Kalikimaka My ‘Ohana” a standout on “King Size Manger”.
Songwriters Travis Hill and Tom Douglas wrote “Soldier’s Gift”, the album’s lead single.
“I loved what the song says and musically it’s laid back enough to grab your attention where you really focus on the words. At first I thought “Where’s the song going?” But I just felt there were so many families and so many members of our military that could relate to that song. And it matched all the other songs and added to the variety and the subject of this record.
Turner dressed up some Christmas favorites with special guests. Rhonda Vincent joined him on swing “Joy to the World” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” the first classic Turner knew had to be on the record because it was still his favorite song, features his wife and four sons.
“I’m sitting in my living room one night, just messing around with the song. And all of a sudden I heard this background vocal part and I thought that was what Jennifer and the boys had to sing along to. So I called a few boys and asked them to sing the part and they did. We went through it and I thought “yes, this is it”, so I made a little recording of it on my phone. Then we went into the studio and they did a great job on it all,” he said of his family. “I’m pretty proud of that one.”
The singer wanted to keep his version of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” as primitive as possible and relied only on the piano, the Hammond B3 organ and a three-person choir for backing.