Originally known as the Georgia Clodhoppers, the Oak Ridge Boys have been around since the mid-1940s. They sang gospel for three decades before making it big in country music. The Dukes of Dixieland, whose swing rhythms gave a new twist to traditional New Orleans jazz, date to 1948. No original members are present in the current incarnations of either group, and both are way past their peaks of popularity, but they’ve now joined forces to create a winner of a disc in When Country Meets Dixie.
Fusing country music and traditional jazz may be rare, but it’s nothing new and was executed particularly well by Merle Haggard on 1973’s I Love Dixie Blues. The Oaks/Dukes collaboration really comes to life when the band, anchored by drummer J.J. Juliano, supplies syncopated second-line and rumba-boogie grooves behind the Oaks on revamps of their hits “Bobby Sue” and “Elvira,” the gospel songs “Just a Little Talk with Jesus” and “Uncloudy Day,” and a medley of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya,” Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’,” and Rockin’ Sidney’s “My Toot Toot.” The latter track, effusively rendered by guest vocalist Callaway McCord, combines three major strains of Louisiana music — country, R&B, and zydeco — without missing a beat. The song selection is excellent, especially the Stan Freberg-penned Tennessee Ernie Ford number “Fatback Louisiana, USA” on which Wesley Probst sings, Listen boy, when you’re ill, you get a black-eyed pea instead of a pill. And Ryan Burrage’s clarinet solo on “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” is oh so sweet. (Leisure)