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Oak Ridge Boys, ‘It’s Only Natural’ – Album Review

Oak Ridge Boys
Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel has found a tidy little formula for releasing music: Package a handful of new songs from an established artist with a few classics and hope loyal fans stop by and maybe sit down for some dumplings or chicken-fried steak.

The Oak Ridge Boys are the latest act to team up with the restaurant-turned-record label, and their new collection of original material and re-recorded hits is a good fit for the Old Country Store. There is plenty of sincerity, a little bit of silly and a whole lot that feels familiar about this project.

Of the five new songs on ‘It’s Only Natural,’ none is better than the opener, ‘What’cha Gonna Do?’ Fans get to hear all four parts of that famous harmony, including Richard Sterban’s rumbling “Whatcha gonna, whatcha whatcha gonna gonna do” hook. ‘The Shade’ is another great lyric. It’s easy to listen to and provides a great lead up to ‘Elvira.’

A few of the re-recordings feel sleepy — most notably ‘Beyond Those Years,’ which Joe Bonsall performs more like an adult contemporary radio flop than a country song — but there are enough smiles on songs like ‘Elvira’ and ‘Gonna Take a Lot of River’ to overlook the flat spots. Look for a few surprises as well, like Sterban taking lead vocals on ‘Lucky Moon.’ It’s a version that really takes a few listens to appreciate.

3 Stars

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