Prime Cuts: Love, Light and Healing, Life is Beautiful, When He Comes
Overall Grade: 4/5
The current line-up of the Oak Ridge Boys has been singing together for the last 40 odd years. As a collective, they have had 17 #1 singles, 31 studio albums and 63 singles thus far. They have had their share of sold-out tours and they have had weathered through the various changing fronts of country and Gospel music. While many artists of their calibre would have hung up their boots and spend their time playing with their grandkids, the Oaks are still out there performing and releasing new music. Since 2010, they have released 5 albums, this means they are averaging a new album every couple of years. Not bad for a group that has had been in existence for almost half a century.
When it comes to their latest release, Front Porch Singin', they have had little left to proof. Inspired by producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Rival Sons) to choose songs they would sing if they had an evening free sitting at their front porch, the boys begin listing down their choices. What is remarkable that the songs they have garnered fall mostly within the Gospel or more precisely the Southern Gospel category.
One of their first picks is Willie Nelson's "Uncloudy Day." Instead of updating the song, which Nelson wrote in 1976, the Oaks and Cobbs have preserved an old time Gospel feel to it. Keeping the sound organic and rustic, the Oaks indulge in some 60s-esque rock n' roll with "Rock My Soul." Current single "Swing Down Chariot" and "Life's Railway to Heaven" take a minimalistic approach keeping the backing at the bare minimum with the attention on the quartet's harmonies.
More contemporary choices come with Keb'Mo's "Life is Beautiful." In a world that has been shaded by the pandemic, "Life" is a gorgeous love song shedding light on the blessings God has given to us. "Love, Light and Healing" is a benediction where the Oaks prays for their fans with some of the most heartfelt lyrics. "Old Ways" finds the Oaks returning to what they have done best: story songs. Told through a first-person narrative, the Oaks sing about the importance of old-fashioned values.
If there is any sign of weakness, it's that the latter half of the record is bogged down by too many slow ballads. Maybe a duet or a few more upbeat burners may help liven the listening experience. Nevertheless, this is another great album by the Oaks. Though many of the songs speak about Christ, the Oaks have framed it in such a way that Jesus is interwoven into life's experiences, making the album palatable without sounding preachy. In this regard, Front Porch Singin' will be appreciated by both their country and Gospel music fans.