Music: The Oak Ridge Boys

My wife likes the Oak Ridge Boys a lot. She’s liked them since the age of eleven.

Can’t place the group? They’ve got two hits that you’ve likely heard: “Elvira” and “American Made.” They sing country and gospel.

My personal musical preferences include jazz, blues, rock (70’s progressive, 80’s-90’s alternative, indie rock), and classical. Sometimes I make brief forays into folk, bluegrass, celtic, ska, reggae, and klezmer. Country and gospel are not on that list. It’s not that I dislike them. I just prefer other things. Bearing that in mind, I went to an Oak Ridge Boys concert tonight. I didn’t go under duress, but let’s just say that it would have never occurred to me to go if I weren’t married.

The Place
To begin, I’d like to mention something about the Deltaplex in Grand Rapids. If you’ve got the money and you’re going to see a concert there, spring for the expensive seats on the floor in front of the band. We sat in the bleachers to the side of the band and there wasn’t much space between the rows. It was okay for my wife, but I’m almost a foot taller than she is and my knees were in the row ahead of me for most of the concert. Fortunately, the seats directly in front of me were empty or I’d have kneed the occupants in the back of the head again and again.

The Singers
Like any band with more than one vocalist, they’ve got the problem of making each person visually distinctive as well as musically distinctive. Thus, they have:

–One Workingman Rocker (with moustache) who pumps his fist on occasion
–One Guy Who Wears a Suit (who has a beard)
–One Guy With a Really Long White Beard and whose clothes often have sparkling pictures on them
–One Guy Who Has a Goatee and a More Elegant Look and also a really DEEP VOICE. As in, he makes all those ominous sounding people who do movie trailers sound like three year old girls by comparison. This guy, obviously, is the bass singer. He is also, according to my wife, “the cute one.”

The first three guys do more lead singing than the bass singer, but that’s not much of a surprise. I’ve sung a bit of bass myself and mostly you spend your time helping other people sound good. This is not a bad thing.

The Concert
When it comes right down to it, I had a good time. The first half of the concert included their hits as will as material from their new album (which includes the song “Hard to Look Cool in a Minivan“). I did not know much of this material. The second half of the concert consisted of Christmas music and was recorded for use on XM Radio.

Despite my lack of knowledge about the genre and lack of strong interest in the material itself, it was pretty obvious that they knew what they were doing and were good at it. I’d go see them again.

I’m more interested in seeing the Decemberists or Ron Carter if there were any chance he’d come to Grand Rapids, but there’s something to be said for a group that can entertain you even though you’re primarily going because your wife is.

One thought on “Music: The Oak Ridge Boys”

  1. I feel much the same as you about that genre. In general I don’t like country, but I always have respect for people who know their craft and do it well. I have an Alabama CD because my wife walked down the aisle to “The Maker Said Take Her”. Groups like tORB and Alabama are to country what Lynyrd Skynyrd and Aerosmith are to rock. Very very good at what they do, and they enjoy doing it. I have to respect that.

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