Prime Cuts: There Will be Light, Pray for Me, If I Die
Overall Grade: 5/5
In recent years, the releases of Oak Ridge Boys have been oscillating between country and Christian albums. But for their latest Christian effort, they have decided to muddy the genre with the inclusion of country music producer Dave Cobb. Cobb, who has been known to helm records by Chris Stapleton and Zac Brown Band, is a maverick of sorts. For this album, he has helped the veteran band to colour outside the lines. Thus, this isn't your typical Southern Gospel album. What you will hear on this 9-song set are the raw grit timbres of Americana music, the storytelling proclivity of country music and the free flowing spontaneous worship of Black Gospel music. In fact, there's so much individuality cloned into each song that each of these 9 cuts can exist as stand-alone singles themselves.
Such ingenuity is also to be credited to the co-writers. Fellow country music peer, Brandy Clark, who has been known for her razor sharp lyrics is responsible in co-penning the scintillating lead single "Pray for me." This isn't your whitewashed liturgical pristine prayer; rather this is narrative of vagabond struggling between prayer and playing the lotto. In fact, the story is so engaging that every line keeps you at the edge of your seat. Talk about songs without the facade of niceties is the soul-piercing, "If I Die," one of two tracks written by Vince Gill.
Vince Gill who also co-wrote "Let It Shine on Me" is so un-Gill-like. Instead of a standard country waltz we have come to expect of Gill, "Let It Shine on Me" has an old-fashioned African American Gospel aura enhanced by some organ flourishes. Meanwhile the brooding 60s sounding "Where He Leads Me I Will Follow" has a ring of Elvis Presley to it. More mainstream country is the Jamey Johnson, Larry Shell & Buddy Cannon composition vocal layered ballad"There Will be Light."
"God's Got it" brings you back into those tiny country church where handclaps and shouting hallelujahs are part of the worship liturgy. With whopping Waylon Jennings-styled guitar loops, "A Brand New Star" sounds more the Hoss rather than the Oak Ridge boys. Nevertheless, what's perplexing is, why does the album only contain 9 songs instead of the regular 10? Regardless, this is a very innovative album where the Oaks have stepped out of their comfort zones. And in the process, they have produced a unique masterpiece.