[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Brian Fuson of Fuson’s Findings.]
Out of all the groups on the road today, it would be hard to find a group with a greater heritage than The Nelons. It all started when Rex Nelon took over the management of The Lefevres. After Eva Mae Lefevre’s retirement, the group was renamed as The Rex Nelon Singers in 1977. Towards the end of The Lefevres, Rex’s daughter Kelly joined the group. Together, this father and daughter duo led The Nelons to the top of the Gospel Music industry. After her father’s passing, Kelly continued to lead the Nelons through a new millennium. The group consists now of Kelly Nelon Clark, her husband Jason Clark, and daughter Amber Nelon Thompson singing soprano, with youngest daughter Autumn supplying additional vocals.
When you consider the group’s rich history and all their accomplishments, it may come as a surprise that this project marks a first for The Nelons. “Hymns: The A Capella Sessions” is the very first a cappella recording in the group’s long and illustrious history. United together with super-producer/arranger Lari Goss, the family has recorded one of the finest a cappella projects in the history of the genre.
The CD opens with a fantastic arrangement of “The Hallelujah Chorus,” with Amber on the lead. Amber leads the majority of the songs on this project, and her voice is just an absolute treat to listen to. The harmonies are fantastic and performed to perfection. Next up is the timeless classic, “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus”. The third track is a unique arrangement of “There Is A Fountain” that features Jason and Amber. Jason Clark is truly one of the most talented individuals in our genre and has become a great vocalist. He delivers a very soulful vocal, and knocks it out of the park. The arrangement is unique for the fact that it is in a minor key. The group follows that up with a fantastic arrangement of “Hallelujah, What A Saviour.” Amber is featured on the next song, a fantastic arrangement of a spiritual “Do Unto Others.” There’s some added stand up bass on this selection, that gives the song a great, soulful-bluesy groove.
Next up is a medley of “Pass Me Not/Just As I Am/Amen” that opens with Kelly softly singing the first lines of “Pass Me Not.” I believe that just as Vestal Goodman, Naomi Sego, and other such ladies were the Queens of Gospel Music, Kelly has joined that list. One the second verse, the group is joined by the youngest Nelon, Autumn, who does a fantastic job on her feature. The ladies come in on the chorus with some beautiful high harmony. “Since Jesus Passed By” is another wonderful performance, with the trio hitting all the transitions and key changes beautifully. One of my favorite tracks is the medley of “Keep On The Firing Line/Onward Christian Soldiers.” This arrangement has some get up and go, and The Nelons deliver.
Another great medley features some songs about prayer: “Sweet Hour of Prayer/If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again/Pray.” Amber leads the family, and is featured on a few lines before it shifts to “If I Could Hear,” where Kelly picks up the feature. The harmonies once again are incredible, with the group nailing each transition. The project comes to a close with a wonderful rendition of “I Need Thee Every Hour.”
With the vast amount of a cappella and/or hymns recordings that are released, a fan can easily overlook those recordings and wonder why he should buy. But this is not your ordinary hymns/a cappella recording. The Nelons are one of the finest groups in our genre and they possess one of the finest blends of any group on the road today. With Amber’s continual growth into one of the most powerful and talented female voices in our genre, and the rock solid vocal consistency of Jason and Kelly, every Nelons recording is excellent. Add to that the great arrangements of Lari Goss that breathe new life into these old hymns, and this project is a must have. If you love hymns and great a cappella music, this project is for you. I thoroughly enjoyed this CD and look forward to hearing The Nelons sing these songs live!
Review copy provided.