South Carolina-born Country singer-songwriter Josh Turner released his debut album Long Black Train in 2003. 16 years on from the release of that record and Turner has finally made a trip to the UK to perform a series of headline shows and headline Sunday night at The Long Road. It’s amazing to think that someone with the success that Turner has enjoyed, has never made the trip to the UK especially given the rise in popularity for Country music the past few years. With a recently expanded edition of his 2018 album I Serve a Savior having just been released in the UK, Turner performed his first ever UK show at London’s Union Chapel last night.
Given that his current album is a collection of faith-based songs, it seemed fitting that Turner was headlining at Union Chapel. Still a church on the weekend, the venue has started to attract many Country stars thanks to its unique feel and fantastic acoustics. For Turner’s debut show, he performed an acoustic set back by three of his band (those going to The Long Road this weekend will get the full band treatment). Opening his set with fan favourite single Why Don’t We Just Dance, Turner received a rapturous reception including one woman who shouted out frequently throughout the show.
Turner’s deep tone sounded fantastic live. He hit notes so low that It was genuinely spine-tingling at times. Deep South, the title track of his 2017 album really showcase the depth of his voice as he sang about where was from. The audience lapped it up and Turner, with a big smile across his face, clearly was aware that he had his fans in the palm of his hand. The first third of the set mainly concentrated on the hits with cuts such Everything is Fine and Time is Love keeping the crowd engaged and hungry for more. The punchy Firecracker kept the tempo high and proved to be a real crowd pleaser.
The remainder of the set switched between selections of I Serve a Savior and more of Turner’s enviable back catalogue of hits. I was nervous as to how faith-based songs would go down with an audience. Not every artist can pull it off – over the years we’ve seen Carrie win UK fans over with Jesus Take the Wheel and Reba fall flat during her headline set at C2C with selections from her album Sing It Now – but Turner managed. UK fans tend not to go in for the religious focused songs but they lapped up what Turner had to offer.
A lively rendition of Hank Williams’ I Saw the Light was a hit as was a fast-paced uptempo version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Loretta Lynn’s I Pray My Way Out of Trouble, a song Turner told the audience he hadn’t really been playing, was a nice addition to the night’s set list. Me and God and I Serve a Savior got the biggest reactions with the former having featured on Turner’s Your Man album in 2006 before being recorded live for I Serve a Savior.
Entering the final stretch of his set Turner performed the catchy All Over Me and the powerful and autobiographical Long Black Train. He brought the night to a close with Your Man, easily one of his signature tunes and a playful way to end a fantastic night.
Turner’s first UK show was an undeniable success. The set list hit most of the right notes with the audience and Turner exuded charisma in between songs joking with the audience and occasionally veering off on an amusing tangent. Seeing Turner live in the UK has been a very long time coming but it was most definitely worth the wait. Given the reception he had last night, and that he’s got more performances to come this week, Turner had better be already planning his next trip to the UK. I can’t wait.
Set list: 1. Why Don’t We Just Dance 2. Deep South 3. Everything is Fine 4. Time is Love 5. Firecracker 6. Me and God 7. I Saw the Light (Hank Williams cover) 8. Swing Low Sweet Chariot 9. Hometown Girl 10. Would You Go With Me 11. I Pray My Way Out of Trouble (Loretta Lynn cover) 12. I Serve a Savior 13. All Over Me 14. Long Black Train 15. Your Man Performance date: 5th September 2019