Though the Oak Ridge Boys have been a performing unit since the days of Wally Fowler in the 1940s, the line-up of William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Richard Sterban, and Joe Bonsall are marking their 40th anniversary of performing together in 2013, and that calls for a celebration — country style.
Friday night, the party made a stop at historic Renfro Valley, KY — and though the quartet has enjoyed one a long and fruitful career together, they took to the stage with the zeal and energy of a brand new band.
Kicking off with “You’re The One,” the Oaks wasted no time establishing themselves on stage — passing around the lines on the verses just like they have for years – and sounding as crisp and sharp as ever. They wasted little time from the beginning, setting the evening in motion as a retrospective of many of their past hits, such as “Everyday” (1984), “Come On In” (1979), and the rollicking “Love Song” (1983). Though it has been over three decades since they hit with the latter two, you could not tell it – as they sounded identical to the original MCA release. Sterban seemed to especially get into the moment on the bass part of “Love Song.”
For close to two hours, the Oaks segued from one hit to another, including their 1977 breakthrough hit “Y’all Come Back Saloon.” There were a few brushes from outside the lines of their chart favorites. The guys harmonized with Golden on “Louisiana Red Dirt Highway,” a song that the baritone recorded for a solo project, and Sterban got a chance to show off his low bass notes again on “Down Deep Inside,” an album cut from 1984. Of their newer material, Allen gave a heartfelt take on “Mama’s Table,” a track written by Jamey Johnson, and Bonsall sang into the stratosphere with a performance of “Lead Me To That Rock,” from their latest disc Back Home Again.
As the night neared to a close, they saved their most emotional – and energetic moments for last. Following up their well-received performance at the CMA Music Festival, they gave a passionate take on “Same Ol’ Me,” a 1982 top ten hit from George Jones on which they provided harmony, and closed out the night with the one-two punch of “Elvira” and “Bobbie Sue.” Fans instantly rose to their feet in unison with the opening bars of “Elvira” and stayed there until the last “B-B-Bobbie Sue,” with the spirit of an old fashioned all-night singing – which the Oaks did plenty of during their Gospel days.
As their contemporaries have slowed down or retired, there seems to be no end in sight for the “Mighty Oaks,” and honestly, as long as the music is like it was Friday night in Rockcastle County, Kentucky, there shouldn’t be. The ‘Boys’ continue to ‘Step On Out’ while they ‘Deliver’ songs about living those ‘American Dreams.’ And, that’s what has kept them around for the ‘Long Haul!’