Prime Cuts: I Just Can't Make It By Myself, Greater Things, You Can't Unmake Old Friends
Some artists make you wait for scores of years before they drop an EP of less than 5 new songs. Not so with the Nelons. As a follow-up to their acapella album in 2013, these Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame members have released not one but two albums under the Daywind Records banner. With 18 newly recorded songs they are definitely one of the most generous acts around. But it's not only in quantity where the Nelons are magnanimous. The quartet has also enlisted a generous list of who's who in the scribal world of Christian music to write with them. These names include Jason Clark as well as legendary writers as Dony and Reba (Rambo) McGuire, Dawn Thomas, and Bill and Gloria Gaither. Vocally, Karen Peck Gooch and Bill Gaither also lend their voices to "You Can't Unmake Old Friends" and "Suppertime" respectively.
Word has it that the Nelons were in such a stage of fecundity that they wrote more than enough songs for one full album. Rather than narrowing down the songs to fit the confines of a one album canon, they have decided to release two separate records. Nevertheless, fans with a limited budget are bound to ask: if one were to purchase just one out of the two efforts, which would be a better buy? Since both records were recorded within the same auspices of time and production quality, it all boils down to the songs.
Despite having a more amateurish type font, "Family Harmony" has a higher quota of songs that pass with high honors. The ersatz Cajun-country tune "I Just Can't Make It By Myself" is a specimen of perfection. Tight and gorgeous vocals complemented by a sing-a-long tune that is bright and sparkling, this tune of dependence upon God is so addictive that you will find yourself returning to it again and again. The strong-laden ballad "Greater Things" takes the express lane into our hearts. Stringing together narratives of hopelessness, "Greater Things" speaks of how Christ brings hope that is so real and so palatable that you may want to have your Kleenex nearby. Also tear-inducing is the piano-led "Imagine Hallelujah." Bill Gaither joins the foursome on "Suppertime" which lives up to its rustic titular with that homey-sounding harmonica and those pulverizing layered harmonies.
"Stronger Together" does have its sublime moments too. "You Can't Unmake Old Friends," a tune originally recorded by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, is a gorgeous ballad about unwavering friendship, a quality that has almost become antiquated in our self-centered society. By the way, Karen Peck Gooch, who adds her vocals here, sounds remarkably like Dolly Parton in her vocal inflexions. "My Father's House" sets to music Jesus' promise in John 14:2 with great creativity. The Nelons' take of "Then Came the Morning" is simply epic. Sounding like the reeling of a Disney movie captured in song, Christ's death and resurrection has never been so graphically and so movingly portrayed. However, songs such as "Gate of Heaven" and "The Awakening" are okay without being particularly dazzling.
In this day and age where artists are more keen on releasing EPs and getting away with fewer and fewer songs, the Nelons are to be congratulated for gracing us with two albums. Budget constraints aside, both albums are quinteesential listening if you love the Nelons' harmonies and these (mostly) well crafted songs.
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