Music News & Reviews

The Oak Ridge Boys are back – but they sound a little different

The Oak Ridge Boys
The Oak Ridge Boys Courtesy of the artist

The Oak Ridge Boys knew they wanted something different for the band’s new album, “17th Avenue Revival,” and its first single, “Brand New Star,” when they went to producer David Cobb.

“We don’t really care for contemporary country music and wanted something really special. What we came up with is not like anything we have ever done before,” said longtime Oak Ridge Boy Joe Bonsall.

“We have done gospel, of course. Our roots are in gospel, but we’d never done gospel like this, with rock and roll overtones not unlike what Elvis used to sing when rockabilly was growing out of gospel. And with ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus’ we felt we were partly channeling Jerry Lee Lewis’ recording of it.

“Old roads turned into new roads on this album.”

“Brand New Star,” will be among those the group sings at Cache Creek Friday night for a stop on the “Shine the Light Tour.”

The tracks run the gamut from revival (“I’d Rather Have Jesus” ) to traditional (“Walk in Jerusalem”) to contemporary with Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally’s “Pray to Jesus and Win the Lotto” – “the only two things that can change tomorrow.”

The 17th Avenue part of the title refers to the studio where the recording took place, the famed Studio A on Nashville’s 17th Avenue South.

“It was great to be there. I could feel Chet Atkins looking down on us,” Bonsall said.

The new album will hardly take up all the Oaks’ time on stage. They have sold over 41 million albums, won five Grammys, and been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Their singles include giant hits like “Elvira,” “Y’All Come Back Saloon,” “Bobbie Sue” and “American Made.”

Bonsall was interviewed right after this year’s edition of the Grammys where producer Dave Cobb was with big winner Chris Stapleton.

“But my favorite part surprisingly was the Broadway segment with Patti Lupone and Ben Platt,” he said. “My least favorite part was when Elton John was doing so well and then Miley Cyrus had to come out and join him and destroy the song.”

The Oak Ridge Boys have been at it for over 50 years with few cast changes and show no sign of slowing down. They began as the Oak Ridge Quartet in the 1940s, but the current lineup dates from the early 1970s (they became the Oak Ridge Boys in 1973).

“We love to sing and in all honesty we are singing just as well as ever,” Bonsall said. “If we come to the point we have to quit I imagine we can shut it down. The Statler Brothers did, but I don’t see it happening for us soon.” (7:30 p.m.; $49-$75;