Just Sing: Amber Nelon Thompson

amber2015justsingmaxGRADE:  B+

  • Album – Just Sing
  • Artist – Amber Nelon Thompson
  • Label – Daywind Records
  • Style – Progressive, Modern Country, Pop
  • Release Date – 07/31/15
  • Available For Digital Download? – Yes (iTunes/Spotify)

SYNOPSIS:

Last year, Amber released an EP of four songs that I ended up naming the best Southern Gospel album released in 2014.  2015 finds the release of Amber’s first full solo recording, for Daywind Records, titled Just Sing.

To be fair, this review (and rating) will only look at the six new songs found on Just Sing.  If you want to know my thoughts on the four songs that were also contained on the 2014 EP, Without Your Love, you can find that review here.

The six songs contained in this review continues with the style Amber provided on last year’s EP.  Amber melds progressive Southern Gospel sounds with modern country and layers in some pop overtones.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The album starts with some ukulele and all around fun song with “Sing-a-Long”.  A bit of a folk/country-style that also has a stuttering cameo from Bill Gaither.  The listener will be hard pressed to not be singing along by the time the song is done.
  • Second on the song list is a song some listeners may have heard recently.  The song, “He’s Making Me”, was recently recorded by Shane Dunlap on his 2015 release, Love So Amazing.  Amber uses a pop style to convey the message that God is constantly making us better individuals; no matter how hard we try to fight it sometimes.
  • The latest single from Just Sing is “Another Time, Another Place”.  Amber gets the vocal talents of Michael English to perform this Sandi Patty/Wayne Watson cover.  Even though this is a CCM cover and even has pop influence in its style, the song should do well at Southern Gospel radio.  Amber and Michael’s vocal combo on this song will have you hitting the repeat button.
  • A little Gregorian Chant at the beginning of the traditional hymn, “Be Thou My Vision” adds some variety to the recording.  The rest of the Nelons join Amber on this stellar performance of a classic song.
  • From there, we move to the end of the recording to get the other two new songs on Just Sing.  “God Is Always Good” is a progressive Southern Gospel song that should be considered for future radio release.  Of all the new songs (not found on last year’s EP), this is the most Southern Gospel friendly.
  • The final new song is the modern country, “Give It To Jesus”.  Amber’s vocal talent leaves you wanting more when the recording is finished.
  • Strongest songs (not on last year’s EP) included in order:  “Another Time, Another Place”, “Be Thou My Vision”, “God Is Always Good” and “Sing-a-Long”.
CRITIQUE:
  • After the stellar four song EP released last year, I was a bit hesitant on a full solo recording, but Amber delivered.
  • Weakest songs (not on last year’s EP) included in order:  “Give It To Jesus”.

WRAP UP:

Amber Nelon Thompson is one of the best things about Southern Gospel music right now.  She is also on a short list of the strongest female vocalists to EVER be a part of this industry.  Why she isn’t winning every award available boggles this listener’s mind.  If you committed the criminal act of not picking up Amber’s four song EP last year, then you can get that sentence pardoned by grabbing Just Sing.

SONG (Style) – Songwriter:  1. “Sing-a-Long” (Folk/Country) – Jason Clark  2. “He’s Making Me” (Pop) – Marty Funderburk, Scott Godsey  3. “Another Time, Another Place” (Pop)/duet with Micheal English – Gary Driskell  4. “Be Thou My Vision” (Gregorian Chant/Old Hymn) – Traditional  5. “What Do You Say” (Prog SG) – Jason Clark  6. “Without Your Love” (Prog SG)/duet with Joseph Habedank – Jason Clark, Joel Lindsey  7. “Grateful” (Pop) – Ian Eskolin, Don Poythress, Tony Wood  8. “God Is Always Good” (Prog SG) – Jesse Thompson   9. “Give It To Jesus” (Modern Country) – Dava Anderson, Rebecca Peck  10. “Falling” (Prog SG) – Gina Boe, Ronnie Freeman, Tony Wood

The Fab Five – August 2015

As I kick off each new month, lets take a look at the most played Southern Gospel radio (or should be) songs in my musical playlists over the preceding month.  Karen Peck and New River has one of the biggest songs of the year and one of the biggest of the last several.  The Perrys, Jordan Family Band, Wilburn and Wilburn and Mark Trammell Quartet round out the top five.  Enjoy!

KPNR

*Video Credit (DaywindRecords)

Perrys

*Video Credit (#ThePerrys)

Jordan Family Band

*Video Credit (Various Artists – Topic)

Wilburn

*Video Credit (Various Artists – Topic)

MTQ

*Video Credit (Southern Gospel Time)

Ten On Ten (Redux) – Dove Brothers

dovebrothers1999wingsofadovemaxWhen I started this redux series for the ten on ten feature, I mentioned I would go in the same order as my original series.  This week the ten on ten (redux) will re-visit the Dove Brothers. On November 22th, 2011, I presented the original ten on ten feature for the Dove Brothers highlighting the group’s ten best albums. This redux feature will now shine the spotlight on the three lowest ranking albums of the group’s career.  With only 16 albums in their discography, it doesn’t leave much room for the three lowest ranked recordings.  First, the original list highlighting the group’s ten best recordings.

  1. Hold On (2009)
  2. Never The Same (2006)
  3. Life (2008)
  4. Unshakeable (2010)
  5. Anything But Ordinary, Everything But Typical (2005)
  6. Every Time I Feel The Spirit (2001)
  7. A Tribute To Mosie Lister (2004)
  8. Pure Tradition (1998)
  9. Flying High (2000)
  10. You Can’t Stop God From Blessing Me (2002)

dovebrothers1999quartetwaymaxThe lowest ranked albums in the Dove Brothers discography are as follows:

  1. On The Wings Of A Dove (1999)
  2. The Old Country Church (2001)
  3. Sing The Quartet Way (1999)

Smack Down!! – “Greatest Of All Miracles”

Jim Brady TrioOne of the most popular features of my blog when I first started was my smack down feature.  I thought it would be time to get back to that.  Artists are always covering songs from prior decades to keep this feature alive for years.

I made a bold statement in my review of the Jim Brady Trio’s, A New Chapter, recording last week that their cover of Squire Parsons classic, “The Greatest Of All Miracles” was one of the best I’ve heard.  Let’s put that to the test.  In this week’s smack down feature, I will pit the Jim Brady Trio’s cover of “The Greatest Of All Miracles” against Gold City’s original cut.  You decide which is better.

  • Artist – Jim Brady Trio
  • Album – A New Chapter
  • Release Year – 2015
  • Featured Vocalist – Melissa Brady

vs

  • goldcity1983readitagain150Artist – Gold City
  • Album – I Think I’ll Read It Again
  • Release Year – 1983
  • Featured Vocalist – Brian Free

Aim Higher: Browns

the-brownsGRADE:  B-

  • Album – Aim Higher
  • Artist – Browns
  • Label – Stow Town Records
  • Style – Progressive, Country
  • Release Date – 07/14/15
  • Available For Digital Download? – Yes (iTunes/Spotify)

SYNOPSIS:

The Browns are among five family groups who record for Stow Town Records.  The company they keep is stellar (Collingsworth Family, Erwins, Perrys and Taylors).

2015 finds the release of Aim Higher; the sophomore album for the Browns and Stow Town Records.  The song selection on Aim Higher is a step above that of their previous effort, Love Loud (2013).

Aim Higher aims to be the best produced album of the group’s career.  It is no surprise Wayne Haun was responsible for the arranging of the recording and helped produce the recording alongside Landon Beene and Ernie Haase.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Adam and Andrew seem to trade-off on the album’s strongest songs.  Aim Higher kicks off with one of the best songs on the album; “On The Winning Side”.  Michaela and Shelly help co-write this particular number that should find a home at Southern Gospel radio.  This is also the most Southern Gospel friendly song on the recording.
  • That flows right into the album’s title cut, “Aim Higher” which features Andrew.  Another strong selection that takes a progressive approach to convey its message.
  • The instrumentation/orchestration used on “Sinners Come To The River” is absolute perfection and really sets up the vocals to the song.  This particular number also features Adam and Andrew.
  • The Browns have been known for their violin/fiddle work since they hit the Southern Gospel scene.  They record Beethoven’s classic “Fur Elise” and should be proud of the final result.
  • Adam attempts to tackle Third Day’s “Soul On Fire”.  I enjoyed the country treatment given to this particular cover.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “On The Winning Side”, “Aim Higher”, “Sinners Come To The River”, “Soul On Fire”, “Fur Elise” and “Love That Won’t Let Go”.
CRITIQUE:
  • The Browns have always relied on the ‘cute kid’ schtick in their on stage performances.  Now that the kids are adults, they really need to move away from that.  This album had two songs that I feel will be ‘over the top’ on stage.
  • The Browns cover the Speer Family classic, “Didn’t It Rain”.  This song did not need another cover.
  • The other is the Charlie Daniel’s treatment given to “Touch Of The Master’s Hand”.  It just didn’t work.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Didn’t It Rain” and “Touch Of The Master’s Hand”.

WRAP UP:

With the couple of weak moments on Aim Higher, this album still strives to be one of the best of the group’s career.  There are several strong moments that definitely deserve a listen.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “On The Winning Side”/Ensemble; Adam; Andrew – Michaela Brown, Shelly Brown, Wayne Haun  2. “Aim Higher“/Andrew – Michaela Brown, Shelly Brown, Joel Lindsey  3. “Didn’t It Rain”/Michaela; Andrew – Ben Speer  4. “Soul On Fire”/Adam – Tai Anderson, Brenton Brown, David Carr, Mark Lee, Matt Maher, Mac Powell  5. “Love That Won’t Let Go”/Michaela – Rachel McCutcheon  6. “Sinners Come To The River”/Adam; Andrew – Jeff Bumgardner  7. “Fur Elise”/Instrumental – Beethoven  8. “Know You Now”/Shelly – Val Dacus, Randall Garland, Wayne Haun  9. “Touch Of The Master’s Hand”/Andrew – John Kramp  10. “You Speak To Me”/Ensemble; Shelly – Michaela Brown, Shelly Brown, Joel Lindsey

Southern Gospel Tidbits

HinsonsDID YOU KNOW?:  The month of August was very good for the Hinsons in the 1980’s when it came to chart success.  They ended up with four #1 songs during the decade that were all at the #1 spot during the month of August.

  • August 1982 – “God’s Gonna Do The Same For You And Me”
  • August 1983 – “Two Winning Hands”
  • August 1984 – “Call Me Gone”
  • August 1988 – “Mercy Built A Bridge”

The August success didn’t stop there as the following songs were top five hits for the Hinsons during the month of August.

  • August 1981 – “Till The Land”
  • August 1986 – “Let Me Tell You His Name Again”
  • August 1987 – “Soul Filling Station”

*Video Credit (Scot Eaves)

Honoring Southern Gospel’s Greatest Albums – 1960’s (#10)

happyg-thishappyhouseSeveral months ago I began a series honoring the best Southern Gospel albums released by decade.  The rankings were a result of you, the readers, voting in the search for Southern Gospel’s best album series last year.  Now it is time to take a look at the top ten albums for the decade of the 1960’s.

The Happy Goodman Family released their first recording in 1963.  During the decade, they were releasing songs that would go on to become standards for the group including; “Born To Serve The Lord”, “Had It Not Been”, “I Don’t Regret A Mile”, “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now”, “I’m Too Near Home” and “When Morning Sweeps The Eastern Sky” to name a few.

The album that lands at #10 among the best Southern Gospel recordings released during the 1960’s is the Happy Goodman’s 1969 album; This Happy House.  The album contained such favorites as “I Found A Better Way”, “Guilty Of Love”, “Thank God I’m Free”, “The Sweetest Song I Know” and “This Is What Heaven Means To Me” among others.  The vocal line up on this recording was Sam, Howard, Vestal, Rusty and Bobby on a select number.

Here is a musical montage of the album ranked #10 among the best released in the 1960’s, This Happy House.

Ten On Ten (Redux) – Hinsons

hinsons1970gospelsoundmaxThis week the ten on ten (redux) will re-visit the Hinsons. On November 15th, 2011, I presented the original ten on ten feature for the Hinsons highlighting the group’s ten best albums. This redux feature will now shine the spotlight on the three lowest ranking albums of the group’s career.  First, the original list highlighting the Hinsons ten best recordings.

  1. From Out Of The West They Came, Live And On Stage (1976)
  2. High Voltage (1975)
  3. Touch Of Hinson, Glimpse Of Glory (1974)
  4. We Promise You Gospel (1973)
  5. On The Road (1978)
  6. Hinsongs (1982)
  7. One More Hallelujah (1992)
  8. Harvest Of Hits (1975)
  9. Lift The Roof Off Live (1984)
  10. Bubblin’ (1981)

The lowest ranked albums in the Hinsons discography are as follows:

  1. A Gospel Sound Spectacular (1970)
  2. Here Come The Hinsons (1970)
  3. Song Vineyard (1980)
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