Prime Cuts: Just Sing, God is Always Good, Falling
Though Amber Nelon Thompson is by no means a novice, her crystalline soprano that calls to mind Lauren Talley and Red Roots strikes a chord of freshness and vitality that is so rare in Christian music these days. Just as shiny and as eye-catching as the red convertible she's sitting in on her album cover, this long awaited solo album "Just Sing" is just as effervescent, gregarious and attention-grabbing. As her maiden name "Nelon" suggests, Amber is one part of Southern Gospel's most revered family group, the Nelons. As a third generation singer, Amber has followed in her mother, Kelly Nelon Clark, and grandfather, Rex Nelon's shoes as a gifted communicator of the gospel. The Dove Award nominee has been a regular on the Gaither Homecoming stage and videos since childhood, and has recently stepped out as an incredibly talented soloist, while still traveling full-time with her family, The Nelons.
"Just Sing" follows on the heels of her earlier released Daywind Records EP "Without Your Love." All 4 selections from the EP ("What Do You Say", "Falling", "Grateful" and "Without Your Love") are included in this collection with the addition of 6 more newly recorded songs. Produced by Jason Clark and with guest appearances by Bill Gaither, Michael English, The Nelons and Joseph Habedank, this project is choked-full of A-listed guests. The album opens up on a high note with the infectious "Sing A-Long." Living up to the song's titular, "Sing A-Long" is a titling hooky piece that will get us humming along in no time. Not to be missed is the gorgeous ukulele pickings that certainly add a more rustic charm to this ode to rejoicing in the Lord regardless of our circumstances.
"He's Making Me" is a sure crossfire hit: this time this bombastic pop sizzler finds Thompson stepping away from her comfort zone in delivering one of her most passion performances. Michael English joins Thompson in resurrecting Sandi Patty and Wayne Watson's "Another Time, Another Place." Though it's an exquisitely produced piece but somehow Thompson and English seem to try far too hard to out sing each other in order to bring out the drama of the song. Much better are the ballads "Give It to Jesus" and "God is Always Good," here Thompson takes her time to sing from her own heart testifying to God's goodness in tepid shades of tenderness and care.
"Grateful," with its lightning speed Keith Urban-esque banjo licks, is a country pop burner where Thompson itineraries a list of events of which she is thankful to God for. Teaming up with fellow label mate and stalwart writer Joseph Habedank is the soaring piano-based ballad "Without Your Love." While "Falling" is prided for the song's attention to details. "Falling" tells of how God's perspective of life is vastly dissimilar to our myopic (and faithless) view. By giving example after example of how God's view is ultimately much more gracious and hopeful, this song drills in us the powerful words of the prophet Isaiah that God's ways are indeed higher than ours.
On this new record, Thompson doesn't just sing. Rather, when she opens her mouth, she evokes such emotions and affinity that you find yourself re-living the stories of the songs. You can't help but identify with her characters. And at the end of the day, you can't help but be changed by the God she sings about.