When the Booth Brothers announced the retirement of lead-singer and group anchor Ronnie Booth two years ago, fans of Southern Gospel were unsure if we’d ever hear the velvety baritone of the award-winning vocalist again. Friends of Ronnie were elated when it was announced that he was releasing a solo record with Gaither Music Group this year. Living Legacy probably isn’t solo release fans were expecting from the singer who spent 30 years cutting his teeth on Southern Gospel music.
The album kicks off with the John Denver tune “Annie’s Song.” This soft and tender ballad sets the mood for Living Legacy, an album that features 12 tracks that were influential to Ronnie. Gaither Music Group has filled a niche in the “Cracker Barrel” market – or a customer base that relishes in nostalgia and a simpler form of life. Living Legacy fits so well in that market, that I’m shocked Ronnie hasn’t attempted something like this in the past (although his tribute to Elvis’s Gospel recordings may fall more in line with this concept than his Booth Brothers recordings).
His cover of Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” is a wonderful refresh of this classic country tune. Booth’s vocal delivery is a fun blending of Campbell and Ronnie’s love for Elvis. This is an album highlight. Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” is another fun tribute to one of America’s finest singer/songwriters. The Barry Manilow favorite “I Can’t Smile (Without You)” has a nice country flare on this version.
Admittedly, Dan Fogelberg’s “Leader of the Band” has been a personal mission statement for Ronnie since hitting the road 30 years ago. His treatment here rivals the original on every level. The American standard “Over the Rainbow” fits nicely in this collection, and his take on Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain” is a very nice update on an already classic lyric. The best songs in the entire collection are Olivia Newton John’s “Let Me Be There” which gets a full Southern Gospel treatment and “Danny’s Song.” The latter cover of Kenny Loggin’s tender ballad really highlights Ronnie smooth vocals amazingly well.
There are 2 Gospel songs to mention as well. The first single, “Gentle Shepherd,” is a beautiful rendition and should serve Ronnie well on radio. The album closes with a poignant and sentimental version of “Beulah Land.” I’ve never been a huge fan of this song, but Ronnie’s delivery is significant.
Overall, Living Legacy fits nicely alongside Gaither’s foray into the general market. Fans of American pop and country favorites will find a lot to love here, and Ronnie’s friends who already love his gentle, silky tones will instantly be drawn to Living Legacy.