Country music giants The Oak Ridge Boys continue their prolific career with 2018 release, 17th Avenue Revival.
Partnered with crucially acclaimed producer Dave Cobb, this entry marks a return to the gospel-driven sound that characterizes so much of the group’s discography while simultaneously re-inventing themselves through genre-blending. Thematically, this album creates a rather interesting dichotomy of secular vs. spiritual. Many tracks contain scenarios and premises that prove relatable, but there is always some semblance of religious overtone.
No track communicates this thematic union than “Pray to Jesus,” which contrasts humanity’s conflict with worldly desire and religious devotion. Lyrics like “We pray to Jesus, and we play the lotto,” captures this notion perfectly. Here, The Oak Ridge Boys comment on the mindset of the majority concerning the desire for wealth that is quickly attained and the pursuit of spiritual fulfillment if it is not. However, many preceding entries favor the latter. That is, The Oak Ridge Boys claim that a devout relationship with Christ trumps any earthly gratification in tracks such as “I’d Rather Have Jesus” and “God’s Got It.” In these songs, The Oak Ridge Boys urge their listeners to turn away from secular fixations, like wealth and renown, and instead focus on a path to salvation. Likewise, this spiritual optimism persist throughout the entirety of 17th Avenue Revival. The opening track, “Brand New Star,” provides a positive spin on the loss of a loved one. Portrayed through the point-of-view of the grieving, this track gives a hopeful view of death by emphasizing the solace found through the realization that the departed live on in the afterlife. Similarly, tracks like “There Will Be Light” remind us that tomorrow brings a glimmer of positivity even after the darkest of days. Overall, 17th Avenue Revival provides an uplifting message of perseverance through the toils of life that is awarded by religious devotion and a positive outlook.
The Oakridge Boys return to their characteristic gospel sound while breaking new ground with the incorporation of some country-driven instrumentation. Many tracks begin with a slow, piano-driven harmony and isolated vocals that progress into upbeat, harmonious swells. The instrumentation is kept bare in order to make those richly blended vocals of The Oak Ridge Boys the prominent feature of each song. Recorded in the historic RCA Studio A in Nashville, this venue lends a natural acoustic texture to each member’s distinctive delivery. Also, Cobb’s revered production skills shine on each track as the music proves expertly mixed while retaining a resonance that sounds almost like a live performance.
17th Avenue Revival is available now on popular streaming platforms, or, if you’re feeling a little nostalgic and retro, you can purchase the album on vinyl, CD, and even cassette.