Review: The Nelons – Beside Still Waters

This is the latest release by The Nelons on Vine Records and features Kelly Nelon Clark, Jason Clark, and Amber Thompson.  The album was produced by Wayne Haun and Jason Clark.

Tracks:

  1. The Love Of God – Progressive, modern country mid to uptempo song featuring Amber.  It’s very obvious that Amber is ready to step into the limelight as a vocalist.  She sings the first verse with some restraint, then blows away the chorus with Kelly and Jason stacked under her.  Amber then sings the second verse solo.  After the chorus is repeated Amber has an ultra-high ad-lib that leads to another chorus.  This is a great, energetic start to the album and makes the listener immediately sit up and take notice.  9/10
  2. Beside Still Waters – This is a smooth, flowing number that was previously recorded by the Mark Trammell Trio.  The song features Jason Clark on the first verse and chorus.  I’d never paid too much attention to Clark before, but he really has a nice voice that blends well with Kelly and Amber.  He may not have the upper range of Jerry Thompson, but his voice is smoother and fuller than Jerry’s.  After the chorus, the key changes and Kelly takes the second verse as a solo and keeps the melody through the chorus.  Kelly is still a smooth, elite level alto.  Another key change and Amber takes off for the third verse.  There’s not anything tremendously flashy on this song, but it’s a nice sweet, smooth number that showcases the trademark Nelon blend. The harmony on the tag is really pretty.  8/10
  3. Goodbye Valley, Hello Mountaintop – This is a fairly traditional uptempo number that features Jason again.  Jason keeps the melody throughout the song and does a fine job.  Several key changes throughout the course of the song end up really pushing Amber into the stratosphere, and she, ahem, rises to the challenge (puns are always intended, and free of charge!) admirably.  Solid song.  8/10
  4. There Is A Way – One of the trademarks of The Nelons through the years have been incredibly powerful inspirational ballads and sopranos that could really carry them (Karen Peck and Charlotte Ritchie spring to mind).  Add Amber Thompson to the list, as this beautiful, well written ballad features her, and she really shines on this song.  If you’ve not heard much of the group in the past few years, this song demonstrates that Amber has matured into a fine soprano singer, and deserves to be mentioned among the upper tier of sopranos in the genre.  This is classic Nelons, and shows that the group is finally back and ready to reclaim the place they previously held in SG music.  Great, GREAT song.  10/10
  5. He Found Me – This was the first single from the group and has a real bluesy edge to it.  Jason Clark takes the first verse and chorus, then Amber Thompson takes the second verse and chorus.  This is a nice change of pace from the big ballad before, and is a solid tune that will get your toe tapping.  8.5/10
  6. Settled At The Cross – This is the current single from the disc, and is another pretty ballad that features Kelly.  Her performance on this very pretty ballad is a quintessential Kelly Nelon Clark performance.  Again, this song hearkens back to the style that made the group a household name in SG circles, and is why I became a Nelon fan years ago.  Very well written, sung incredibly well, and orchestrated beautifully, this is another standout on the project.  9.5/10
  7. I’m Going Home With Jesus – The Carroll McGruder classic is brought back and updated nicely by the trio.  I love the guitar and brass driven track and the group’s vocals are spot on.  Jason has the melody for the initial chorus after a unison intro and then takes the first verse.  He does very well in that he knows what he can and can’t do as a vocalist, and concentrates on what he does well.  The key changes after the next chorus and Amber takes the second verse.  Another key change precedes a repeat of the chorus.  They use a faux-ending, then the drums lead the track back in.  Amber absolutely wails on a little ad-lib leading into a reprise of the chorus that is possibly the vocal highlight of the entire CD.  This girl has been blessed with some pipes!  Great song.  10/10
  8. My Tribute – Andrae Crouch’s classic is given the big inspiration ballad treatment.  Jason Clark takes the first half of the verse before Kelly takes the second half leading to the familiar chorus.  Amber takes the melody on the chorus, which is initially done in a softer, subdued manner that is absolutely gorgeous.  Jason and Kelly split the bridge that leads to a key change that ratchets up the intensity several notches.  After the chorus, they change keys again and repeat the chorus.  The tag is incredibly high and powerful, and they nail it.  Wow.  10/10
  9. Weep – Kelly sings this acoustic guitar driven song that has some interesting lyrics about the example Christ set for us to “weep with those who weep” as the chorus says.  This has some nice tight harmonies in the chorus, with some nice chord progressions as well.  Kelly and Amber actually switch parts for the second verse and chorus.  Another very solid song.  8/10
  10. Consider Me – This is a midtempo number featuring Jason Clark.  The track is a little unique in that it’s primarily a guitar driven track, but also features some brass accents that give the song a unique sound.  Some more smooth singing here.  7/10
  11. Jesus, What A Wonderful Name – This is a flowing anthemic style song that features Kelly Clark on the first verse, with Amber taking the melody on the chorus.  One could easily hear this song as a choir singing this for a Sunday morning service.  The lyrics are very much Praise and Worship influenced.  It’s a good song.  8.5/10
  12. I Choose To Live – This song features Kelly’s younger daughter, Autumn Thompson.  Sometimes when a younger child is featured on a recording, the song is fairly simplistic and a little overly “sweet.”  This isn’t the case with this song.  It’s arranged in a pop ballad feel, and lyrically is a strong message about the choices we make.  Autumn’s vocals are very solid, and the background harmonies are very smooth.  This is a great song choice for Autumn’s debut performance, and she does a fine job on it.  9.5/10

Overall: 9 This is an incredibly strong statement from The Nelons.  Though they’ve been off the road for a while, and out of the SG limelight for even longer, this project serves notice that the group is back and is focused on being a force in the industry again.  The album features strong lyrics, great vocals, and strong arrangements.  Kelly hasn’t lost a beat as an top notch singer in our genre, Jason more than admirably holds his part down, but this project shows that Amber Thompson is ready to follow in her mother’s footsteps as an elite level vocalist.  You can’t help but be impressed by her vocals on “There Is A Way” or “Going Home With Jesus.”  This is the best the Nelons have sounded since Charlotte Ritchie’s days with the group at least.  This is definitely a CD you don’t want to miss!  Great job by all involved.

About Wes Burke
I'm a .NET developer and Southern Gospel music fan. Married with a wonderful family.

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