The Oak Ridge Boys are putting extra goodies under your Christmas tree this year. The Country Music Hall of Fame quartet – Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, Richard Sterban and William Lee Golden — has just released their new holiday album, “Down Home Christmas,” and will be firing up their 28-city Down Home Christmas Tour November 13th, in Branson, Missouri. For the legendary foursome, the album marks their eighth Christmas collection. On top of that, this will be the group’s thirtieth annual Christmas tour, which would certainly qualify as a tradition. Oaks members Duane Allen and William Lee Golden spoke with Sports and Entertainment Nashville about the new record and the upcoming series of Christmas shows.
The “Down Home Christmas” album, available now, includes seasonal standards like “Silent Night” and “Amazing Grace.” But it’s also wrapped with plenty of original tunes, penned by some of Music Row’s top songwriters. Lead vocalist Allen recalls that he wanted a particular vision for the album, beyond a mere collection of songs. “In our family,” Allen begins, “we have a lot of traditions. But the one that stands out is that we always get around the old family piano and sing the carols. That’s a happy time for us. We wanted to create that kind of atmosphere.”
Allen presented his vision to the album’s producer Dave Cobb, who in turn sent his stable of writers on a mission. “In about a week,” Allen says, “I got a rough draft of the song, ‘The Family Piano.’ I realized that these guys are writing for us just like we wanted. All at once, more songs started coming in.” Allen figures that he listened to around 600 songs before deciding on the final cuts, with most coming from Cobb’s writers. “They have a writer’s room right above RCA Studio A, where we recorded the album,” Allen smiles. One of the keepers, “Down Home Christmas,” ended up becoming the title track.
Another original. “South Alabama Christmas,” has considerable relevance for Oaks baritone vocalist William Lee Golden. The evocative tune was written by three songwriting stalwarts: Jamey Johnson, Bill Anderson and Buddy Cannon. Johnson recorded it for a Christmas album he released a few years back. Golden, a native of Brewton, Alabama, embraced the song like an old friend.
“Jamey brought this song to me,” Golden recalls in his soft-spoken tone, “and he said, ‘If you like it, I’d want you to cut it.’ I took it home and listened to it. I loved the song. I come from the southern part of Alabama near the coast and the song talks about the warm gulf breezes and not having snow. It was exactly how I grew up.” Allen chimes in with hearty praise for Golden’s strong vocal performance. “William Lee owns that song,” Allen raves. “It was perfect for him.” Johnson made another festive contribution with his appearance in the Oak Ridge Boys’ current video “Reindeer on the Roof,” which also features cameo spots from actor Dennis Quaid and John Rich.
The Oaks will treat their fans to “The Family Piano,” “Reindeer on the Roof”” and all the selections from the new album on their Down Home Christmas Tour. Even though this marks their thirtieth holiday tour, the seasonal show never gets old for the guys. Each year, they tweak the concerts just enough to give them a brand-new feeling, while retaining the spirit of a family Christmas. “We always try to freshen up our stage show,” notes Allen. “Like for this year, we needed a new coming off song, when we get ready to close the show. And we found one that I think is just going to be great for the stage. It has a great finish.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Christmas show without a few traditional favorites. The Oaks include plenty of carols and spiritual numbers throughout the course of the show. “Everything we do in the show is personalized,” explains Allen. “We do ‘Silent Night’ sitting in front of the fireplace in four rocking chairs. We still sing ‘Thank God for Kids,’ because we all have children and grandchildren. That is one of our most requested songs. Then, we have a section on our show where we tell stories of how we all grew up. All the songs are tailor made for us and what we do.”
It’s almost a certainty that the Oaks’ Christmas tours will live on past the big No. 3-0. “People never get tired of these songs,” Golden states. “The season takes people back to their childhood and those good times.” Allen adds, “It’s just a good family show. You see all the generations at a Christmas show, and sometimes you can see all the members of one family in the same row. It’s the biggest thing we do all year and we love it.”
The Oak Ridge Boys’ album “Down Home Christmas” is available now. For more on the group and their Down Home Christmas Tour, please visit the Oak Ridge Boys website and follow them on social media.