The dogs days of summer have approached as August rolls in. As I start every new month, it is time to look at the most played Southern Gospel radio songs in my iPod over the preceding month. The Primitive Quartet has the top spot for August as Triumphant Quartet and the Nelons each have a revised classic song cover. The top five is rounded out by Legacy Five and Brian Free & Assurance. Enjoy!
Music Scribe has been announcing our choices for the best of 2013. We thought it would be nice to get to know those individuals a little better. Today we open up our interview chair for a new conversations feature with our choice for female vocalist of 2013, Amber Thompson.
Amber has been performing full-time with Nelons since the age of 13. In the interview I asked Amber her thoughts on her family’s legacy, her upcoming solo album and a question about the real celebrity in the family.
Sit back, relax and enjoy our conversation with Amber Thompson.
Eaton: You come from a great legacy in Southern Gospel music with your grandfather (Rex) and mother (Kelly). What are your thoughts on the Nelons legacy in Southern Gospel music and now your part in that legacy?
Thompson: “I’ve always been proud of my family’s legacy. My grandfather paved a way so that it would be easier for my mother and eventually myself one day. I am so thankful that God allowed me to be born into a family that was not just talented but a godly family as well. I’m also thankful that He allowed me to be able to share the talent with them so that I could be a part of it.”
Eaton: Is singing something you always wanted to do? How long did you have to hound mom before she let you take the stage with the group on a full-time basis?
Thompson: “I’ve always wanted to sing. I actually don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t want to sing. When I was little I used to set up my dolls and sing to them on the bus while my family was singing on stage. I actually filled in for the Nelons when our soprano singer came off of the road to get married. My mom felt like it fit because we were a family and we found out my range was actually the range of a soprano. So God had a plan the whole time.”
Eaton: You may not realize how much of a role model you are to young girls and even young people in general regarding Gospel music. Do you ever think about that?
Thompson: “I think about that all the time. It’s what motivates me to be the best that I can be to know that young girls or teenagers are watching me and learning from me. I know how blessed I was to have such great role models and because of the example they set for me it helped me become who I am today. So I strive to do the best I can not only for them but to please God as well.”
Eaton: Your family has been a part of many large Southern Gospel events (including Gaither events). What has been your all-time favorite place to sing?
Thompson: “That’s a tough one. I’ve enjoyed and seen so much. I think definitely the Gaither Homecoming Concerts would rank to the top of my list. That was always a dream for me that I wasn’t sure would ever happen. But when God allowed us to be a part of it I was thrilled. I love Bill and Gloria so much and they never cease to teach me something new each time I’m around them. They are like family to us and to be able to be on that stage with them because of who they are is an honor and a privilege. I would also say that anywhere outside the U.S. has been pretty cool too. I’ve been to Scotland, Ireland, London, Sweden, Guatemala, Mexico, etc. but probably my favorite was Paris. That was another dream of mine. To see the Eiffel Tower in real life is surreal. So cool.”
Eaton: Southern Gospel fans can be an interesting bunch. What is the most unusual/funniest thing said to you at the product table by a fan?
Thompson: “Well I had a lady come up to me and ask me, “Do you know who I am?” and i couldn’t recall her name so I said “I’m not good with names but I know who you are” and smiled. She then replied “Ok, well then how do you know me?” I could feel my face get red and panicked and I replied, “Well refresh my memory, I see so many people a day” and she said “Well I gave you a very important gift that you still have”. Now I was in trouble because I just could not remember. So finally I told her, “I’m sorry I just don’t remember”. She laughed and said “When you were born I made you a blanket and gave it to you as a gift”. We both just laughed and I said “Well no wonder I don’t remember!”
Eaton: The Nelons are working on 40 years in Southern Gospel music. Do you have an all-time favorite Nelons song? Does the group still stage the song?
Thompson: “There are so many Nelon songs that are so good. It’s hard to pick just one. But if I had to pick it would be “Oh For A Thousand Tongues”. Not a night goes by where we don’t sing that song. What an incredible lyric.”
Eaton: Is there a particular song in the group’s current set that you would be happy to stop singing, because you’ve grown tired of performing it?
Thompson: “Oh Yes! “Walk Right Out Of This Valley”! If you know my grandfather and are a fan of The Nelons, then you know why this song is not a favorite of any soprano of the Nelons. They make you sing it 4x and each time speeding up the tempo until you eventually sound like a chipmunk. I still sing it and I am very close to deleting the file, hahaha.”
Eaton: I understand you are working on a new solo recording. Can you tell us a little bit about the recording and when listeners can expect it at retail?
Thompson: “I am so excited! I just signed with Daywind Music Group to do a brand new solo project that should release in the Summer of 2014. I wasn’t sure about doing one and my family kept telling me to do it and they would help me get everything together. So here we are! We are in the process now of writing and picking songs still and then once that’s done we will go forward with everything else. I can’t wait to get it done and out for everyone to hear.”
Eaton: Your family’s dog (Sam) has become quite the celebrity. Whose initial idea was it to begin making videos with your vocal work (and your voice bringing Sam to life)?
Thompson: “My family is crazy. We are who we are no matter where we are haha. Sam has a personality all on his own. My mom and I share the same sense of humor so we would start telling each other what we thought Sam would say if he could say it. So that turned into me making this cute but sarcastic little voice and making everyone laugh. Which eventually turned into filming it so we could share it with everyone else and he became a hit. We couldn’t believe our dog became famous.”
Eaton: In closing, let our readers know a little about the Amber Thompson outside of Southern Gospel music?
Thompson: “Well most of you know I just recently got engaged to my fiancé John Risk. We met in college and dated for almost 4 years. We are getting married in June and could not be any happier or excited. I also just filmed a TV show for TLC called “Say Yes To The Dress”. It will air some time after the wedding. So be watching. I also just graduated from Bethany Divinity College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Counseling for Marriage and Family. I really wanted to work with kids who have been treated bad or are in broken homes and need help. I love kids and they really do have my heart so God allowed me to go to school so that I could use this on the road or at home. God has truly blessed me and especially this year. I’m overwhelmed and undeserving of his grace and love but I’m thankful that He cares about me and chooses to bless me.”
I want to thank Amber for stopping by for our conversations feature. I believe our staff choosing Amber as best female vocalist of 2013 is the first in many honors that will come her way in the years to come. Here is a YouTube clip (published by SouthernGospelVideos.com) of Amber and the Nelons performing “I Stand Amazed”. Enjoy!
The Holiday season is fast approaching as we turn the page to start November. To kick off another month, it is time to take a look at the five most played radio songs on my iPod over the preceding month. The Browders have another huge #1 hit, as other country flavored tunes from the LeBeaus, Johnson Edition and Wilburn & Wilburn find a place in the top five. A power house cover of a Lanny Wolfe classic by the Nelons round out the list. Enjoy!
The penultimate night of the 2013 National Quartet Convention is now in the record books. It was a full day that started with the Gaither sing-a-long this morning. Here are the nights hits and misses.
- The Gaither sing-a-long highlights (in order of appearance) were: “There Is A Fountain” (David Phelps), “Heaven’s Jubilee” (Keith Oxendine), “What A Lovely Name” (Libbi Stuffle), “I Call Him Lord” (Becky Bowman, Mark Lowry, Charlotte Ritchie) and “Glorious Freedom (GVB).
- The Gaither Vocal Band really saved the best for last when they closed the program with “It Is Finished”. It was a fitting end because nothing could have followed that performance.
- It was good to see Taranda Greene singing with the Hoppers tonight. “The Love Of God” with Dean, Kim, Taranda and Mike with just piano was amazing!
- Thank you Bill Gaither for giving Canton Junction two songs. Too bad a limited tour schedule will keep this group from reaching a larger Southern Gospel concert audience.
- I enjoyed seeing Karen Peck Gooch and Kelly Nelon singing “We Shall Wear A Robe And Crown” together. Also each group’s individual sets were very good.
- The showcase artists that performed tonight were some of the best of the week. Early on, Freedom Quartet sang “Somebody Touched The Lord” while the Browders pulled out another future #1 late in the evening with “He Is Alive”. But the showcase artist performance that stood out to me was the Wilbanks and their fantastic performance of the 23rd Psalm. Unlike anything I have ever heard!
- As with most Friday nights at NQC, the program ran over.
- The free night interview cut-ins, cut out some of what was happening including the Penny Loafers and the opening to Karen Peck & New River’s set.
- I believe this was the first time in the ten years since they started staging it that the Hoppers didn’t perform “Jerusalem” at NQC.
- Performances that seemed to fall flat (at least from viewing it via webcam), in order of appearance are as follows: Dennis Family (“I’ve Got Joy”) and Rick Webb Family (“Joy To The World”).
**Now to crown the best of the night:
Best single song performances (in order of appearance): (1) “I’m Glad I’m Saved” – Bowling Family (2) “The Lord Is My Shepherd” – Wilbanks (3) “More Than Wonderful” – Nelons (4) “The Love Of God” – Hoppers (5) “If That Isn’t Love” – Isaacs (6) “On The Banks Of The Promised Land” – Karen Peck & New River (7) “The Son Shines Down On Me” – Canton Junction (8) “That Sounds Like Home To Me” – Gaither Vocal Band (9) “The King Is Coming” – Mark Trammell Quartet (8) “Get Up, Get Ready” – Gold City (8) “He Is Alive” – Browders (9) “I Know A Man Who Can” – Greater Vision (8) “It Is Finished” – Gaither Vocal Band
Best Set of the Night: This was a tough one because there were several strong sets to choose from, but if I was combining their entire set with the closing number I would give it to the Gaither Vocal Band.
The Nelons was built out of the legacy Rex Nelon created as a member of the LeFevres. Rex spent 20 years singing bass with the LeFevres. When Eva Mae decided to come off the road in 1977, Rex Nelon took over the group and changed the name to the Rex Nelon Singers.
That first group was composed of Rex (bass), Kelly (alto), Janet Paschal (soprano) and Rodney Swain (lead). The group found immediate success with their first album, The Sun’s Coming Up. This song still remains a signature song for the group.
The Rex Nelon Singers would pick up their first #1 song in 1980 with “Come Morning”. That same year they recorded a song that would become another signature for the group, “We Shall Wear A Robe And Crown”.
By the time they released their 1985 album, In One Accord, the Rex Nelon Singers was shortened to the Nelons. The music the Nelons created in the 1980’s has left an indelible mark on the music we hear in Southern Gospel music in 2013.
Today’s generation of the Nelons continue with Kelly, daughter Amber and husband Jason.
- The number of times a mixed/family Southern Gospel artist has staged “We Shall Wear A Robe And Crown” over the course of the last thirty years is testament enough of the mark the Nelons influence has left on Southern Gospel.
- The music the Nelons were creating in the 1980’s can/could be seen in the following artists: Beene Family, Bledsoes, Browns, Collingsworth Family, Crist Family, Dills, Johnson Edition, Lesters, LordSong and Taylors.
- The Nelons also saw Dan Clark, Karen Peck Gooch, David Hill, Paul Lancaster, Todd Nelon, Lamar Newton, Katy Peach, Charlotte Ritchie, Amy Roth, Jeff Stice, Jerry Thompson and Stan Whitmire spend time with the group.
- Hit Songs: “All That Matters”, “Bring My Children Home”, “Come Morning”, “Covered By The Blood”, “He Called Me Out”, “He Rolled Back The Stone”, “He’s The Calm Before The Storm”, “Holy Is The Name”, “I Choose The Lord”, “I Want To Be Like My Lord”, “I’ll Just Lay It Down And Leave It”, “I’ll Talk To My Father”, “I’m Glad I Know Who Jesus Is”, “I’m Gonna Keep Walking”, “I’m On My Way”, “I’ve Got A Right”, “Jesus Is Alive And Well”, “Jesus Is Your Ticket To Heaven”, “Leaning Place”, “Let The Redeemed Say So”, “Love Of God For Me”, “Moment I’m Gone”, “More Than Conquerors”, “No More Tears”, “O For A Thousand Tongues”, “Settled At The Cross”, “The Sun’s Coming Up”, “Take Off Those Rags Lazarus”, “Thanks”, “That’s Enough”, “That’s Why I Love To Call His Name”, “There Is A Way”, “There’ s More Where That Came From”, “Waiting On The Word”, “We Shall Overcome”, “We Shall Wear A Robe And Crown”, “We Speak Your Name”, “Wedding Day”, “Well Done My Child”, “What A Change”, “When I Receive My Robe And Crown”, “Where Sin Has Been Pardoned” and “You Ain’t Seen The Last Of Jesus”.
- Best Album: Get Ready (1988)
Here is a YouTube clip, from our MusicScribeBlog channel, of the Nelons performing one of their biggest hits; “O For A Thousand Tongues”. Enjoy
This week’s artist album smack down is the first match up for legendary mixed group, the Nelons. Listen to sound bytes of each recording and then vote for the album you think should win.
- Album – Get Ready
- Release Year – 1988
- Vocal Line Up – Jerry Thompson (tenor), Karen Peck (soprano), Kelly Nelon (alto), Rex Nelon (bass)
- Song List – (1) “In Jesus Name” (2) “I Can Almost Hear The Trumpet” (3) “Revival In The Land” (4) “Get Ready For The Rapture” (5) “Medals, Crowns And Trophies” (6) “A Wonderful Change” (7) “Bring My Children Home” (8) “I Just Keep Watching The Gates” (9) “Building” (10) “We’re Gonna Make It”
- Album – A New Generation
- Release Year – 1991
- Vocal Line Up – Jerry Thompson (tenor), Todd Nelon (baritone), Kelly Nelon (alto), Rex Nelon (bass)
- Song List – (1) “Clap Your Hands” (2) “I’ve Been Through The Blood” (3) “Take Off Those Rags Lazarus” (4) “When Redeemed I Stand” (5) “Making My Plans To Make It” (6) “I’m Glad I Know Who Jesus Is” (7) “Mercy Called Me By Name” (8) “Let The Church Arise” (9) “I’m Still Leaning On Jesus” (10) “When He Takes My Hand”
I always enjoy bringing this series; the definitive Southern Gospel collection. The series takes a look at the twenty best album released in Southern Gospel music by year. Today we take a look at the year 1994.
The Cathedrals began their dominance in the 1990’s by winning group of the year at the Singing News fan awards. Gold City’s Pillars Of Faith won album of the year for a 2nd year in a row while the McKameys, “Arise” was awarded song of the year.
The twenty best albums released in Southern Gospel music in 1994:
- Chapter X Live – Bishops (MorningStar)
- The Martins – Martins (Chapel)
- Testify – Gaither Vocal Band (Chapel)
- Cool Clear Water – Tony Gore & Majesty (Promised Land)
- Carry Me – Isaacs (Horizon)
- Thread Of Hope – Jeff & Sheri Easter (Chapel)
- Never Thirst Again – Hoppers (Sonlite)
- Masterpiece – Dixie Melody Boys (MorningStar)
- Brian Free & Assurance – Brian Free & Assurance (Chapel)
- Serving A Risen Savior – Greater Vision (RiverSong)
- Renewed – Gold City (RiverSong)
- Fields Of Greene – Greenes (ACA)
- Sold Out – Don DeGrate & Strong Tower (Homeland)
- Triumphant – Nelons (Chapel)
- I Speak To You – Kirk Talley (Sonlite)
- Bridge The Gap – New Journey (Canaan)
- Come To The Fountain – Anchormen (Sonlite)
- Raise The Roof – Cathedrals (Canaan)
- One Purpose – Hayes Family (Custom)
- Stirrin’ It Up – Steeles (Daywind)
Listen to a mash-up of music from the twenty best albums released in 1994. Enjoy!
Today, the album of the same name, Come On Home, ranks #15 among the best Southern Gospel albums released in 2012. Produced by Bill Gaither, Come On Home is an easy listening type recording. Reminiscent of what the Bill Gaither Trio would record, this album is dominated by slower, more reflective type songs.
What sets it apart is the power house vocal work put in by all three members of the Nelons. As a result, Come On Home is one of the best Southern Gospel albums released in 2012.
Personal favorites from this recording include: “Come On Home”, “Jesus, I Just Want To Say I’m Sorry”, “Come To The River”, “The Sun’s Coming Up”, “I Choose The Lord” and “Morning Has Broken”.
Everyone in Southern Gospel music is aware of the battle Sheri Easter faced with breast cancer several years ago. Now that she in on the other side of that battle, she recorded a song on the group’s 2012 album, Eyes Wide Open, titled “I Know How It Feels To Survive”.
Penned by Sheri and son Madison Easter, Sheri delivers this song with assurance. The listener can believe every word she is singing. Listen to a clip of #15 among the best recorded songs of 2012; “I Know How It Feels To Survive”.
The countdown continues Monday with #14.