For decades, Tennessee’s Oak Ridge Boys have made a living singing songs about drinking, cheating and “late night benedictions” for Saturday-night cowboys, while also churning out good-old-fashioned gospel music for those eager to repent on Sunday. On their new single, a cover of Brandy Clark’s “Pray to Jesus,” the country quartet covers all those bases. The track will be included on the group’s forthcoming album 17th Avenue Revival, due out in mid-March.
Clark is a country singer-songwriter who has penned songs for numerous A-list Nashville artists. She co-wrote “Pray to Jesus” with singer Shane McAnally and included it on her 2013 album 12 Stories. The lyrics are a tribute to the idiosyncrasies of American faith, describing people “From California to Kalamazoo,” who, as she puts it:
Don’t wanna be buried in debt or in sin
So we pray to Jesus and we play the lotto
Cause there ain’t but two ways
We can change tomorrow
The tone of Clark’s original is wistful, and she sings with a touch of sadness in her voice. By contrast, The Oak Ridge Boys transform it into a full-on celebration. They inject a welcome bit of humor in the spirit of their classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s such as “Come On In,” “Trying to Love Two Women” and “Elvira.” The arrangement recalls the music of Sun Records circa 1955, combining a hard-pounding backbeat with boogie-woogie piano and Scotty Moore-style guitar licks. The end result is a rollicking good-time bit of country and rock n’ roll that can be enjoyed by fans from Branson to Brooklyn.