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The Oak Ridge Boys

Down Home Christmas – 2019 (Lightning Rod)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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CDs by The Oak Ridge Boys

While eight Christmas releases might seem a bit much for any other band, for a group like The Oak Ridge Boys, with a pedigree that goes back over 50 years, it feels just right. Joined for the third time by producer Dave Cobb, the outfit lends their signature harmonies to a collection of songs that is pure Oak Ridge, continuing to merge the worlds of southern gospel, country and a few other sounds.

Highlights include the doo-wop flavors of "Reindeer on the Roof," shiny bright rocking piano accented by tinkling tambourine and anchored by Richard Sterban's rich bass tones while "Don't Go Pullin' On Santa Claus' Beard" draws from a similar well with nostalgic tones and plucky vocals from all involved. "South Alabama Christmas," penned by Jamey Johnson, Bill Anderson and Buddy Cannon is another must-listen, featuring a jazzy piano and brushed drums soundscape that captures the very country-flavored lyric.

Songs like "The Family Piano" and "Angels" will be welcome listens to longtime Oak Ridge fans, the classic harmonies front and center through the call and response chorus of the latter while "Hallelujah Emmanuel" brings the highest level of energy to the party, big bright vocals joining a toe tapping beat that sets the tone for a lyric that spells out the Christmas story with joy. The title track feels like the band inviting listeners into their holiday home, homey sentiments and images ringing true while "Bring Daddy Home for Christmas" delivers a narrative vibe that, while a bit cheesy, still works here.

To tie things up, the band also includes a couple of sacred classics in "Silent Night" and "Amazing Grace." Allowing the songs to really stand on their own, the tracks are delivered faithfully and simply, just given simple accompaniment that lets their harmonies shine, the intentional spaces letting their voices seem even bigger and more powerful.

On an album packed with plenty of signature charm and harmony, heartfelt sentiment and spiritual sustenance, The Oak Ridge Boys have given fans an enduring gift.