Category Archives: CD Reviews

Guest CD Review: “Hymns, the A Cappella Sessions” by The Nelons

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[Editor's note: This is a guest post by Brian Fuson.]

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.

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CD Review: The News is Out, by Driven Quartet

Driven Quartet is a young men’s group currently signed to Chapel Records. They’ve been around for a while, even if you may not recognize their name. Their roots run deep in southern gospel, and lead singer Jason Funderburk is the son of legendary Cathedrals tenor Danny Funderburk. In 2009, David Bruce Murray said their self-titled record was the best non-label release he had heard that year. Now they have returned with a new project. Click below the fold for my review. Continue reading

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CD Review: A Cappella, by The Martins

The Martins Acappella cover

It’s been too long since we had some new pure acappella music from the Martins. Now, perfectly timed in the year that I plan to see them live for the first time, this album grants all our wishes! With Lari Goss, Michael English, and David Phelps all sticking their fingers in the pie, it’s a glorious return to the sound that first put the Martins on the map.  Continue reading

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CD Review: Measure of Grace, by The Taylors

Measure of Grace

Measure of Grace is young family group The Taylors’ debut release on Ernie Haase and Wayne Haun’s label Stowtown Records. The fresh-faced foursome is continuing Stowtown’s recent trend of putting family groups on their roster. From left to right, they are Suzanne, Christopher, Leslie and Jonathan. Stylistically, they can evoke the Collingsworth Family, the Easters, or the Hoppers while still retaining their own identity. Now they’ve enlisted the talents of some of the best songwriters in the business (Haun, Lindsey, Jim & Melissa Brady and more) for an all-new collection of songs. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on this upcoming offering:

Likes

*Opening track “I’m Committed to You Lord” is a highlight right out of the gate from Wayne Haun and Jeff Bumgardner. Very classy but kind of kickin’ inspo in the vein of the Collingsworths’ “I Could Never Praise Him Enough.”

*Leslie Taylor is featured on highlight “I Tremble.” Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey once again deliver a blissfully melodic, B-3 Hammond drizzled, richly theological meditation on worship and the cross. (And I just realized that I kind of made it sound like an ice cream sundae. Oh well, food analogies have always been my thing.) With the exception of one cringey line, which I’ve marched out and shot under “Dislikes,” this is the best song on the album.

Let me not forget this temple

It’s transformed into a throne room

And through your name, my soul is ushered in

So let me come to you in wonder

Let my heart still pound like thunder

At the way your grace has found me once again

*Speaking of Leslie, she’s the glue that holds the group together vocally. Her rich country tone compares favorably with Sheri Easter. Continue reading

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CD Review: Angel at the Crossroads, by High Road III

Angel At the Crossroads

Sara Davison, Kiley Phillips, and Anna Grace Kimbrough, the ladies of High Road III, burst on my radar when they performed their original song “High Road” at NQC the other year. I thought to myself at the time, “These ladies are going places!”  Angel at the Crossroads is their sophomore release, and judging by the heavyweights involved in the production (Ben Isaacs, Bill Gaither), it looks like the rest of the industry is sitting up and taking notice too. The album was recorded at Ricky Skaggs’ studio in Hendersonville, TN, with all the instruments played by the ladies except drums (Greg Ritchie) and banjo/mandolin (Andy Leftwich).

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CD Review: Into His Presence, by the Perrys

The Perrys - Into His Presence

Into His Presence is the Perrys’ debut effort with Wayne Haun and Ernie Haase’s new label Stowtown Records. It’s also their first offering of new music since Tracy Stuffle’s stroke now over a year ago January and the subsequent departure of lead singer Joseph Habedank. However, David Ragan has been proving that he is more than capable of picking up where Joseph left off. His resonant, expansive voice is the glue that holds this new lineup together. To me, he and David Mann are cut from the same cloth (speaking of, sympathetic shout-out and best wishes to Mann, who just came off the road after discovering that his throat had been invaded by mold spores!) Tracy’s son Jared, who has an agreeably smooth low tone, is filling in on most of the bass singing for now, although Tracy makes one special guest appearance. Below the fold are my comments on this new project. Continue reading

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CD Review: Hymns, by the Gaither Vocal Band

This hymns project is a parting gift from the last Gaither Vocal Band lineup of Michael English, Mark Lowry, David Phelps, and Wes Hampton. Nearly all the tracks are fresh, with a couple exceptions that I’ll detail in the Likes and Dislikes. So, let’s get right to it!

Likes

*Although “Amazing Grace” recycles some arrangement ideas from the Amazing Grace Homecoming project (minor modulation on verse three, orchestral rhythm on verse four, etc.), I greatly enjoyed the dramatic Celtic twist they put on it. It led to some very cool harmonic choices, like the perfect fifth on the word “begun” at the end. Also loved the pennywhistle doing a few bars of “Come Thou Fount” as the song drew to a close. Although guys, really, you’re not Irish and we can kinda tell, so lose the fake lilt-warble on verse one if you ever do it live, m’kay?

* “Redeemed” was another successful Celtic-tinged arrangement. The blend of strings, accordion and pipes creates an exciting, toe-tapping rhythm. The familiar hymn tune has been somewhat re-worked for this arrangement, but it works quite well. Vocally, David Phelps’s pure tone particularly shines in this context and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did the arrangement.

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Filed under 3.5 star, CD Reviews

CD Review: Legacy Five, Great Day [Updated]

As a backer of Legacy Five’s new project, I just recently received the final mix of their project Great Day. I am pleased to offer the first review of this record, officially out March 25th! I’m using what I believe will be the cover of that project based on the fan poll they held on their blog. Enjoy my thoughts in bullet point form!

Likes

* Y’all know I’m a sucker for gospel shuffles drenched in B-3 Hammond. Standout track “Christ is Still the King” (the number on which some lucky backers got the chance to sing BGVs) goes straight to that happy part of my brain. Congrats to Rebecca Peck and Dianne Wilkinson (the lady is a machine!) for an exceptionally strong lyric and melody. It just keeps building and building to a triumphant finish with the aforementioned fan choir. The relative restraint of the production until that final verse makes it all the more effective.

Souls can still be rescued

For mercy still redeems.

Rejoice, the tomb’s still empty

And Christ is still the King. Continue reading

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Filed under 4.5 star, CD Reviews

CD Review: Drive, by Doug Anderson

Drive

After a Dove award-winning solo debut, plus another table project, EHSS baritone Doug Anderson is back to treat his fans with a collection of all-new songs. The better part of them are contributed by Wayne Haun and/or Joel Lindsey, and predictably these are among the best songs on the album. As per usual, click on to read my thoughts in candid Likes/Dislikes format. Continue reading

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CD Review: Surrender, by Adam Crabb

I put off reviewing this one all last year, but it seems to be perfect timing now that Adam has been hired by the GVB. This solo outing shows him exploring similar progressive ground to his brother Jason Crabb—country/pop with a gospel twist. As usual, I’ll present my thoughts in “Likes/Dislikes” format.

Likes

* “I’ve Got a Right to Pray” — Adam is at his best when he’s rocking that swampy gospel sound with his signature harmonica work. I also loved the jazz organ’s contribution. But most of all, I just love the message of the song (originally recorded by the Paynes and then the Crabb Family in 1999). It’s a spirited application of the story of Daniel to contemporary stifling of religion in the public square. “I wonder what old Daniel would say if he were alive today?”

*As worship songs go, the title track isn’t too bad. It has a pleasant Matt Redman vibe. I’d like to hear Chris Tomlin sing it.

* “Why I Am Who I Am” — A heart-felt, well-written ballad about setting an example for our children. “They’re why I do what I do, why I am who I am.”

* “Higher Ground” breathes new life into the familiar hymn, with some help from Gene McDonald! You’ve never heard such a rockin’ version of this one.

* “Hey Now” may sound a little too much like Eric Church’s “Homeboy,” but hey, that song was wicked cool so why complain?

* “Sometimes He Whispers” starts off slow but builds to a strong chorus:

Sometimes he’s water to the thirsty

Sometimes he’s fire all-consuming

Sometimes his voice is louder than thunder

Oh, but sometimes, sometimes he whispers

Dislikes

*Inserting “Amazing Grace” into “That Whosoever Was Me.” It’s been done, and done, and done. Everyone stop it!

* “Sometimes God Allows” — A promising lyrical hook is wasted by a dull melody that doesn’t allow any lyrical impact to come through.

* “Jehovah Jireh” — Again, very poor melody. Particularly awkward cadencing on the verses and bridge.

*Kids’ choir kicking off “Hey Now” did not work. At all.

*Several songs that I’m struggling to remember and critique by name because… they just weren’t that memorable.

Final thoughts: While Adam has a good voice, he’s not as powerful a soloist as his brother Jason. The good side of this is that he has the ability to blend better with a group, as Bill Gaither has noticed. However, the best thing about Adam is his open heart for God and for people, and that definitely comes through on this project. Anyone who is already a big fan of the Crabbs or of Jason’s solo work will want to pick it up. However, more casual fans who are more interested in really memorable new songs may prefer to download select tracks on iTunes.

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Filed under 3.5 star, CD Reviews