‘Tis the end of the season for all things Christmas. The Oak Ridge Boys added even more joy to the season with their latest recording, “Down Home Christmas.”
This is their eighth holiday-specific album, and if one could imagine they would get better with each one, well, this inspiring latest recording should prove that it’s still all uphill for this country/gospel band.
The iconic vocal quartet started in the 1950s, has been immediately identifiable since the 1970s and had been inducted into just about every hall of fame out there. They’re still touring, having taken those distinctive sounds to 17 locations in December. It will be Jan. 15 before they are nearby, however, and that will be at the Charles W. Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts in Richardson.
The group’s rich renditions of the loved classics “Silent Night” and “Amazing Grace” are welcoming old friends, and the group’s tenor, Joseph Bonsall, talks about the tender feelings around the non-Christmas “Amazing Grace” before the quartet presents the old standard hymn.
It’s the newer and lesser-known songs that give this project its strength and let the four Oaks lift up their lead and harmony vocals to the high skies. Nashville songwriter Aaron Raitiere penned or co-wrote six of the 10 songs here, coming up with such memorable lines as “Let our love for each other fall down like snow” and “Let’s all celebrate the spirit and the birth in the sacred light of the Christmas tree” in the opening “The Family Piano.” Raitiere, along with co-writer Jake Mitchell, also created the upbeat “Reindeer On The Roof,” a song any listener can’t turn away from. “A boom, a boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.” All right, in print that doesn’t look like the Shakespeare of Christmas lyrics, but the voices and the rhythm will have you singing it even when the song is over. Bass singer Richard Sterban takes the lead vocals on this.
“Hallelujah Emmanuel” is another foot-stomping, hand-clapping bouncy-beat of a song, packed with harmonies and reverent with the true meaning of Christmas. William Lee Golden’s rich baritone sparkles here.
“Down Home Christmas,” which Raitiere co-wrote with Texan/Okie songwriter Mondo Saenz, is filled with memories of Christmas — or Thanksgiving — past. “You walk into the place, Mama hands you a plate, Daddy gives a kiss sayin’ ‘It’s good to see your face’” and “Every kind of pie you’d ever want to eat, Star shining bright on the top of that tree” are truisms to the line, “Ain’t nothing like a down home Christmas.”
Three songwriting greats — Jamey Johnson, Bill Anderson, and Buddy Cannon — joined forces to give The Oak Ridge Boys the “South Alabama Christmas,” homey and traditional feelings abundant as the quartet’s harmonies really shine with Paris native Duane Allen’s lead vocals. And the dazzling piano is a pleasant addition to the Boys’ ever-growing talent. “Merry Christmas from south Alabama to you all.”
Two types of music here — country and gospel — with the focus on family, fun, and faith and with classic leads and harmonies as only the Oak Ridge Boys can bring, front and center.
This outstanding Christmas album from Lightning Rod Records is available in hard copy off the website OakRidgeBoys.com and off of just about every streaming site out there.