Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Album review: The Oak Ridge Boys' '17th Avenue Revival'

The Oak Ridge Boys
17th Avenue Revival
(Lightning Rod)

I've been a fan of The Oak Ridge Boys ever since the Tennessee country vocal group crossed over to the pop charts with the No. 5 smash "Elvira" in 1981. On the country tally, it enjoyed a nearly 15-year run of top 40 hits. But the quartet's roots have always been in gospel music, which they've concentrated on for long periods in the intervening decades. 

For 17th Avenue Revival, Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban re-teamed with producer du jour Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Zac Brown Band), who also helmed The Oaks' 2009's secular release, The Boys Are Back.

This time, Cobb sought to get a raw, old time revival vibe in the style that might have inspired Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis back in the day. On some songs, the guys recorded around a single microphone. There was very little tinkering in the studio and minimal instrumentation.  

Clocking in at just under a half hour, the album features nine songs. Several were penned by high profile Nashville songwriters like Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Ashley Monroe, Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson and Buddy Cannon.  

Standouts include opener "Brand New Star," a joyous, hand-clapping ode to a recently departed love one, an inspirational "There Will Be Light" and the positivity of "Let it Shine on Me," where those old trademark harmonies are instantly familiar. During the humorous, lightly rollicking piano-led "Pray To Jesus" (courtesy of Clark/McAnally), the Oaks sing about the title activity as well as playing the Lotto "because there ain't but two ways we can change tomorrow." There are also a pair of public domain/traditional tunes: "Walk in Jerusalem" and "Where He Leads Me, I Will Follow."

All told, 17th Avenue Revival should satisfy longtime followers. 

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