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Hell freezes over and in related news, The Oak Ridge Boys cover The White Stripes

Sometimes a new blog post just drops into your lap, like a gift from rock and roll heaven, hurled downward by Rock and Roll Jesus his self.

Such is the case with today's post. I'm sitting here, and an email pops into my box that says "New Release from Oak Ridge Boys - Seven Nation Army."

No way.

*opens email*

Yes way.

GOTTA hear this.

And now, you too must hear this for your own ears.

The Oaks are definitely looking to drum up some attention for the Oak Ridge Boys brand, and from my point of view, this is certainly a great way to do just that - it certainly caught my attention!

From the press release:

The Oak Ridge Boys are the first Country artist to cover 7 Nation Army, by the White Stripes.

The original single:
-Had over 241,000 spins at radio.
-Was the 2004 Grammy Winner for Best Rock Song
-Total audience impressions: 1.18 Billion
-Charted on three formats: Alternative, Rock, and Active Rock

The first country artist, and in my opinion, perhaps the most unlikely artist to cover "Seven Nation Army," but it totally works. The track comes from their new album The Boys Are Back, due in stores on May 19th (pre-order), featuring songs co-written by Shooter Jennings and Jamey Johnson.


I first saw the Oaks as a kid at the Ector County Coliseum when I was living in Odessa, TX. All of these years later, the Ector County Coliseum is still standing, and the Oak Ridge Boys are still rolling down the highway playing to audiences that range from venues full of dedicated fans to newcomers discovering the band for the first time at the local fair.

I took my mom to see the Oak Ridge Boys a couple of years ago at one of those fairs, and it was a lot of fun to revisit the hits like "Ya'll Come Back Saloon," "Bobbie Sue," "You're The One," "American Made," and of course, "Elvira."

The band was touring at that time promoting their latest release Front Row Seats, featuring the gimmicky (and certainly very catchy) single "Hard To Be Cool (In A Minivan.)"

The Boys Are Back has plenty of interesting moments beyond "Seven Nation Army," including covers of Neil Young and John Lee Hooker tunes in addition to a number of new originals.

Here's the full press release with all of the info about the album, and also some notes about how the collaboration with Shooter Jennings came about. Plus, everything you could ever possibly want to know about The Oak Ridge Boys - this press release has all of that covered, and then some.


With their latest album, the evergreen Oak Ridge Boys prove that they are not only enduring, they are evolving.

The Boys Are Back is a roots-music revelation wherein the veteran quartet explores blues, country, Gospel and rock textures. Producer David Cobb brought the group styles and songs it has never attempted before, from John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” to Neil Young’s “Beautiful Bluebird,” from Jamey Johnson’s stone-country “Mama’s Table” to the blues classic “God’s Gonna Ease My Troublin’ Mind.” “Hold You in My Arms” comes from pop star Ray Lamontagne. Country rebel Shooter Jennings wrote the collection’s title tune especially for the Oaks. “Live with Jesus” and “You Ain’t Gonna Blow My House Down” are Nashville songs, while “Hold Me Closely” comes from Nashville by way of Los Angeles. This album’s innovative repertoire is perhaps best illustrated by The Oak Ridge Boys’ striking version of The White Stripes’ song “Seven Nation Army.”

“We’ve been around so long,” observes the group’s Duane Allen. “We really needed this infusion of new energy.”

“As a group, we thought it was time to do something different,” adds bass singer Richard Sterban. “We wanted the chance to get outside the box a little bit and go down some roads we haven’t been down before. We all felt that now was the time to give it a try. It’s turned out to be a very good thing.”

“I think if you’re going to stay around as long as us, reinvention is absolutely, 100% necessary,” says tenor Joe Bonsall. “We’re still out here, and we’re still smokin’ along, because we’ve got four guys who are always thinking ahead, looking forward.”

“It’s great after all these years that we still get to make exciting new music,” says baritone William Lee Golden. “I just feel so blessed.”

During their career, The Oak Ridge Boys have lent their distinctive harmonies to recordings by a diverse list of artists that includes Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Brenda Lee, Roy Rogers and George Jones. The Boys Are Back came about because of another such collaboration. In 2007, the Oaks recorded “Slow Train” with Shooter Jennings for his CD, The Wolf.

“Shooter called me,” recalls Duane. “…I started telling him stories about his dad, Waylon Jennings. He finally got around to saying, ‘I’ve written this song. I wrote it for me and The Oak Ridge Boys, and I would be so honored if you guys would record it with me.’ We did, and we had a ball with Shooter.”

“A few months after we recorded ‘Slow Train’ with Shooter, he was doing a showcase at a Nashville club,” Richard remembers. “So he asked us if we would come. Of course, the place was packed with kids, people a LOT younger than we would normally draw at this stage of our career. They were standing and partying and screaming and carrying on with him. We were backstage wondering, ‘How are they going to accept us?’ We came out and did ‘Slow Train,’ and the place went nuts. These kids were out there hollering and screaming. Then we sang ‘Elvira’ with Shooter’s band, and the kids were actually singing ‘Oom pah pah mau mau’ along with me. I think that night was when the idea to work with Shooter’s producer, David Cobb, was born.”

“We looked at each other and basically said, ‘We can do this,’’” adds Duane. “’We’ve got to find an avenue that will give us a chance at getting to that hip, new, young audience that Shooter is appealing to.’ We realized we’ve got to do something completely different. Sometimes you can get so old that you can become cool again. Look at Tony Bennett or Johnny Cash.”

Duane, who has long been the Oaks’ producer and its repertoire scout, brought the song “You Ain’t Gonna Blow My House Down” to the table. Ironically, it came from the pen of Dallas Frazier, the man who wrote the group’s 1981 blockbuster “Elvira.”

Back in those days, the Oaks maintained an office on Music Row that was next door to the “outlaw” recording studio where Waylon Jennings created his hits. In another bit of irony, their vocals for The Boys Are Back were recorded in that very same studio. Shooter’s mom and Waylon’s widow, Jessi Colter, lent her distinctive piano playing to their rendition of “Hold Me Closely” in that room.

“We did the whole album in about two weeks,” Duane reports. “We went in every day and stayed until midnight or later. We worked out all our parts and harmonies in the control room, singing together. Then we went right out into the studio and cut it. So it’s almost like it has a ‘live’ feeling.”
For such an album to come from such a musical institution is truly impressive. This quartet came together back in 1973 as a Gospel group lauded as one of the industry’s premier artists. The Oak Ridge Boys outraged purists when they grew their hair long and stopped wearing matching suits. Then they reinvented themselves as country stars with their 1977 hit, “Y’All Come Back Saloon.” A year later, Paul Simon recruited the Oaks to sing on his million-selling pop smash, “Slip Slidin’ Away.”

“Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” “Trying to Love Two Women,” “Come on In” and other hits made the Oaks regular visitors to the top of the country charts. Then “Elvira” and “Bobbie Sue” took them to the pop hit parade as well.

Meanwhile, they found time to appear on such smashes as Brenda Lee’s “Broken Trust” and George Jones’s “Same Old Me.” Thanks to Oaks hits such as “American Made,” “Ozark Mountain Jubilee,” “Thank God for Kids” and their hit revival of The Staple Singers’ “Touch a Hand, Make a Friend,” the group racked up ten Gold albums, two Platinum ones and a Double Platinum collection between 1977 and 1987. The classic Oaks’ lineup of Golden-Allen-Sterban-Bonsall also has four GRAMMY® Awards.

In 2000, the Oaks were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. The following year, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Since signing with Spring Hill, their recordings have earned three Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association. While recording The Boys Are Back last year, The Oak Ridge Boys were presented with the Academy of Country Music’s top honor, its Pioneer Award.

“To be honest, I had mixed emotions,” says William Lee. “On the one hand, it was a great honor. But on the other hand, it felt like you were graduating from high school. You’re getting your diploma, but you feel like you can’t go back there anymore. It felt a little like a door was closing. And at that very time was when we were recording this album, and that was a door that was opening.” The change in approach came easily to William Lee Golden, who probably has the most eclectic musical tastes of the four.

“We’re doing a lot of these new songs in our stage show now,” says Richard. “And it’s amazing how well they’re going over. We open the show with ‘The Boys Are Back.’ The first thing they hear out of the chute every night is me. Then Golden comes out, and the excitement builds as each guy comes out and adds to the song--Duane, and then Joe comes flying out.”

“This new music takes our whole show in another direction,” says Joe. “I’m pretty doggone pumped about it.” He adds that the group has also worked “Boom Boom,” “Mama’s Table,“ “Beautiful Bluebird,” “Live with Jesus” and “I Want to Hold You in My Arms” into its sets and that all are enthusiastically cheered. The Oaks presented their new music, including “Seven Nation Army,” at March’s hipster confab South By Southwest in Austin, Texas. Their show was taped for repeated airing on Direct TV, which reaches 45 million households.

“We talk quite a bit about reinventing ourselves,” comments Richard. “Even after all these years, we still have that energy level on stage. We don’t quite jump as high as we used to, but there’s still an energy that is very noticeable. It’s one of the things that has kept us in the business for so long. People know that when they pay their money to see The Oak Ridge Boys, they’re going to get their money’s worth. There’s still a spark that burns within all of us that makes us want to go out there and do it. You don’t get tired of doing what you love to do. I think that’s the key.”

“We’re still getting to do our music,” says Duane Allen. “I love to do our show. We could have all retired years ago. We invested pretty well. But retire to what? I’m already doing what I love to do. I’m still honored to be here. And who knows? The stars might be aligning for us again.”

“I’m so thankful that I’m with a group who never tries to think of a way to slow down,” adds Joe Bonsall. “It’s been a constant journey. What we’re coming out with is something new and fresh and different, and I think this new project is a big cog in the wheel of moving forward and reinventing. There’s no way I could have projected that 35 years down the road, we would still have a career.

“If you’re doing something and you don’t want to stop doing it, that’s called longevity. To me, it’s still exciting to get on the bus and go on a trip to sing. We hug each other when we get on. And we enjoy each other. The whole attitude is, ‘Let’s go sing.’”

“That’s what started it all in the first place, our love of singing,” says William Lee Golden. “We have so much respect for each other. We’re very different in styles, but we respect what each one of us brings to the group. We have this longevity because we do what we love to do. We love to sing.”

Related Link:

The Oak Ridge Boys - The Definitive Collection (purchase from Amazon)

  • CB

    Dude. This is so amazingly awesome, I don’t even no where to begin.

    You, sir, are getting a hug on Sunday from me, CB, for posting this.

  • Jerry Powers

    I am so excited about this new project from the Oaks! The article is also incredible in it’s detail of their history and what brought about this project. Thank you for bringing us information. If radio doesn’t play this project then they are robbing the public of a fantastic treasure!

  • Shawne Kelly

    Great article! The new songs are terrific. Can’t express how proud I am to be a 30 year fan..and counting!

  • Matt Wardlaw

    Thanks guys! Glad that you stopped by the site….

  • Stacy

    Wow. That is amazingly appropriate after hearing it.

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  • RoxanneT

    This is AWESOME. I’m 37 yrs old & been listening to the Oaks for as long as I can remember. They just keep getting better & better. I can’t waiti for the new CD to be released. I’ve heard some of these songs live, recently (a concert in February). They blew me AWAY! There is nop other group/artist out there like the Boys & there never will be. POWERFUL & awesome!

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