Josh Turner Punching Bag Tour with Ruthie & the Wranglers at Strathmore by Francine Schwartz

Josh Turner, a “little bit of country” and a lot of rock and roll, played Friday night at The Music Center at Strathmore.

A full house of excited fans filled the Strathmore for a lively concert that featured an opening group and then brought on the well regarded band of Josh Turner. He is a charismatic performer with movie star looks whose versions of songs like “Your Man,” have helped X-Factor contestants like Willie Jones stand out of the crowd. Many songs were written by Josh Turner himself, and each one told a story.

Josh Turner. Photo courtesy of Josh's website.
Josh Turner. Photo courtesy of Josh’s website.

Ruthie and the Wranglers, who opened for Josh Turner, were terrific. I especially appreciated Bill Starks, whose pyrotechniques on the piano added a honkytonk flavor to the set with such tunes as “Memphis.” Ruthie and the Wranglers are Ruthie Logsdon, a Montgomery County native, (lead vocals and rhythm guitar); Greg Hardin (Lead vocals and bass guitar); Bill Starks (lead vocals and piano; Andy Rutherford (lead guitar), and Tom Fridrich (Drums).

Ruthie & The Wranglers Photo by Michael G. Stewart.
Ruthie & The Wranglers Photo by Michael G. Stewart.

They played several rousing pieces I had not heard before: “I’m Not Your Doomat,” and “One Step Ahead of the Repo Man.”

Members of Josh Turner’s fantastic band members were not credited in the program materials, and individual musicians were not given much of a chance to do their own licks until close to the very end. At that time Josh provided some quirky details about each of them and then allowed about a minute for each one  to present a little sample of their virtuosity, which was a revelation. I would have liked more of that and less bantering. I especially liked Volinist Aiden McLaughlin who displayed an American and a British flag to demonstrate his recent citizenship decision.

Turner’s band provided a rock concert ambiance for songs like “Backwoods Boy,” “Haywire, “Punching Bag”, “Got Someone,” “Why Don’t We Just Dance?” and “All Over Me” The sentimental “Big Guy” was a moving tribute to his father. Crowd favorites were his hits, “Long Black Train,” and “Front Porch.”

Strathmore is the site of a 1.6 million investment in a flexible sound system of recessed curtains that, according to Mark Grabowski, Executive Vice President of Operations, whom I was fortunate to encounter. This, he said, allows for fine tuning to accommodate the different reverberation requirements of large groups and solo artists.

There were plenty of colored strobe lights and panels displaying moving images of scenic vistas and country paths, as well as enlarged views of what we were seeing on the stage. This made it possible to have intimate views of the performers wherever our seats were positioned, as if we were at a larger venue. A lot of thought had gone into the lighting, as well as the sound.

Josh Turner never disappoints and you could see why his compositions are often selected by contestants on shows like The X Factor and America’s Got Talent.

Running Time: Two hours, with one intermission.

Josh Turner Punching Bag Tour with Ruthie & the Wranglers performed for one-night-only on Friday, February 21, 2014 at The Music Center at Strathmore – 5301 Tuckerman Lane, in North Bethesda. For future events, go to their website.

Josh Turner’s website.


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