It’s never too early to start talking about Christmas. Especially when you’re from the south and it drops a couple degrees. From hit maker that brought “Your Man”, platinum-selling artist Josh Turner prepares everyone for the holidays with King Size Manger. Yuletide classics and a few originals abound in this 11-track album that feature some unique rearrangements. Some may find the idea of adding new spins on longtime standards for Christmas music bewildering. But when you hear the epitome of low-bearing country tones that Turner brings, you’ll be blasting these renditions all winter long.
You don’t have to listen far into the album before you notice how the Grammy nominated artist twists vintage tunes. “Angels We Have Heard On High” is a song where everyone knows the arrangement by heart. But Turner increases the tempo and ups the cheerfulness to the track with his distinctive vocals. Rather than be an imitator, Turner brings his own gleaming appeal to the cherished title. As the country twang layers the direction of the tune, the sleek production Kenny Greenberg edges how much depth Turner can add. But the opener serves as a mere teaser for how the rest of the album opens up.
After a quick look at a classic, it’s time to swoop into some of the originals. Mele Kalikimaka has been “Hawaii’s way to say Merry Christmas to you”. But here, Turner adds his own originality with this tropical theme and induces his own track “Mele Kalikimaka My Ohana”. But if you’re going to do a beach theme song with ukulele strumming, you should bring in the best. Jake Shimabukuro and Hawaiian trio Ho’okena are masters of their craft when you talk about paradise tunes. Turner brings in the comradery to spin the Crosby essential and combine it with their own flair. The slow start builds into how the group make it stylishly cool begin the season of cheer. The big sendoff delves the familiarity others will have with the previous classic before returning to their own imagination.
The highlight of the album comes from the tenderness of the holiday season that quiets down for the self-titled track. “King Size Manger” examines the encompassing story of Jesus’ birth and the closeness of his faith in him. As an outspoken Christian, Turner never remained silent when it came to sharing his life views. The transcendence he ascertains in this record is brought up again in “I Serve a Savior”. Religion and melodies go hand in hand for the singer while ringing in the season that brings everyone together. For Turner’s family, they remain close by as well.
Turner’s wife, Jennifer, is just another important voice that the artist adds to the album for “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Besides his wife, their four children lend their spirit to the track as they all join for the festivities. While it doesn’t lend the high production others might hear in previous arrangements, it holds a place as the most important track in Turner’s life. With the importance of friends and family for the most wonderful time of the year, the singer makes sure to include others for the party. Anthemic songs are the perfect ways to get everyone involved, and “Joy To The World” is set to count in all who hear the celebratory tune. Bluegrass legend, Rhonda Vincent, brings the beloved song in an upbeat intrigue with Turner’s virtuoso. If you expect the laid-back version, you’re listening to the wrong record as the high-energy and anticipated back beat are all the drive for iconic song.
The liveliness Turner brings to his music sets the neo traditional genre he’s pursued his entire career. Combining it with the quintessential holiday classics make Turner’s first venture in the Christmas market a memorable outing. With new approaches to longtime favorites, and a few originals on the rise, Turner’s latest album is the polar express no one knew they needed to hop on.
Written by Trenton Luber