"There's an engineer on that Long Black Train/ making you wonder if the ride is worth the pain." - Long Black Train - Josh Turner.

South Carolina honky tonker Josh Turner scored publicity most artists can't buy when a pressure group tried to have his debut hit video banned.

U.S. railway safety group Operation Lifesaver protested that the video for Long Black Train might persuade suicidal souls to jump in front of moving trains.

Turner wrote the song after listening to the Hank Williams boxed set at the famed Belmont University library in Nashville.

"My first reaction was to laugh," Turner revealed.

"I felt they were absurd, ridiculous. I understood where they were coming from but so irrelevant to the lyrics of the song and the idea of the song and to the video, for that matter. Neither the song nor video is about a real train. They put it into a tangible aspect and the song is not tangible. It's metaphorical. It's just using the imagery of a train to portray temptation."

The song topped charts and enabled Turner to buy albums instead of library listening.

"I graduated from Belmont University and I was at the library one night listening to the complete Hank Williams box set," says Turner.

"It really made me feel like I was in the same room as him. I had to walk to the other side of campus to get home and I noticed something unusually dark about this night. About half way home I had this vision of this wide open space way out on the plains somewhere and there was this train track running right down the middle and from out of the darkness came roaring this beautiful shiny train and people to the side of this track watching the train go by. I kept asking myself "what does this vision mean?" It dawned on me the train was a physical metaphor for temptation and these people were caught up in the decision of whether or not to get on this train. I realised I had something really powerful so when I got home that night I got my guitar out and sat on the bed and it just poured out of me."


It was no surprise that when Turner, then 26, performed the song three years ago on the Grand Ole Opry he was asked to do an encore by segment host Bill Anderson - a prolific hit writer.

Turner was more literal when he drew on his rural roots for Backwoods Boy - a hunting homage.

And stark contrast to Jacksonville in which it's time - not wildlife - the singer kills after a romantic encounter.

So what makes Turner different from the vast galaxy of shooting stars on Music Row?

Well, the young baritone sounds credible when he inhabits the haunting homeless man song I Had One One Time - penned by Harley Allen and Don Sampson - and optimism of In My Dreams.

Equally evocative is the attempt to salvage romance in Jamie O'Hara's Unburn All Our Bridges and choice of the right partner on the wry Good Woman Bad.

Josh is a vocal hybrid of Wade Hayes, Randy Travis and Adam Harvey but says Johnny Cash, whom he visited uninvited after reading one of his biographies, was his morality mentor.

"He was raised the right way but he got sidetracked by a lot of things," says Turner who sang bass in a Hannah home town gospel quartet, "but he never failed to come back to God and to what he knows is right."

Turner, in the vanguard of a new traditionalist posse, chose country ahead of gospel.

"Country music is very accepting of faith-based songs," he says.

"It talks about the good and the bad and everything in between."

Despite lack of airplay, Josh Turner's anthem of redemption makes connection.

The song was intended as both warning and inspiration.

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