The Nelons – We’ve Got to Praise Him (1997)
After 2 solid years of consistency and renewed success, change boarded the Nelons bus once again as Charlotte departed the group to be with her husband, Greg Ritchie. Greg was the drummer for Jeff & Sheri Easter, and Charlotte joined with them to sing the third part, which added tremendously to their sound. With Charlotte’s departure from the group, the Nelons brought on a young lady named Amy Roth to sing soprano and she remained with the group for a couple of years. If memory serves me right, I think I only saw this version of the Nelons once. Also worth mentioning, Jason Clark, who would be a pivotal member of the group down the road, joined the Nelons as their bass guitarist, and would eventually begin contributing his vocals and songwriting skills to the group. Jason played bass guitar for the Singing Americans for about a year, until they came off the road around 1994, and he eventually joined ranks with the Nelons a few years later.
By this time, the Nelons had moved on from Chapel Music Group and had signed with Homeland Records, and “We’ve Got to Praise Him” was the only recording the group released through Homeland. Produced by Lari Goss, “We’ve Got to Praise Him” features that classic Nelons feel with big ballads and massive orchestrations, but this was a decidedly slower paced recording. “We’ve Got to Praise Him”, as the title would suggest, also featured a lot of songs that were more geared towards what I call “church music”, as it seemed that there was a concentrated effort to steer their music in that direction with this album. While there are a few songs that leaned towards a straightforward Southern Gospel feel, there are a lot of the more worshipful type songs found here, as well as songs geared more towards praise/worship and choral music. Also worth mentioning, Paul Lancaster is credited for assisting with vocal arrangements for this recording, and in fact, he would later become a member of the group from 1999 until 2001.
With its piano and harmonica accents, the recording starts off with the black gospel feel of the upbeat, “I’ve Got to Praise Him”, which Jerry wrote with fellow songwriter, Wayne Goodine. Featuring Jerry and Kelly, along with Amy taking the lead on the final choruses, the song sets the tone of the recording and after the fake ending, it goes into double time, before we move on the Southern Gospel feel of the Mark Mathes penned, “Cool of the Day”. With its easy going, medium tempo and steel guitar embellishments, the song features Rex on the second verse and is one of my favorites from the recording.
Pivoting back to a black gospel feel, Kelly is featured on the fun, “Stop By the Church”, which also features a guest appearance by Babbie Mason. Babbie had recorded the song a couple years prior to the Nelons, for which she won a Dove Award for Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year for 1997. The Nelons do a really good job on this highly engaging tune before slowing the pace down as Kelly and Amy both do an amazing job with the Nancy Harmon penned, “We Will Win”. I love the powerful message in the chorus…”we will win, over every power of darkness…we will win, though the battle’s rough and hard…we will win, this church is not defeated…we will win, slaying giants in our way…this church will stand victorious, and our enemies will bend…in the name of Jesus Christ, we will win!”. I love this triumphant and encouraging anthem of the church, and it’s one of my favorites from this album.
Keeping things in slow mode, Kelly steps up to the spotlight again as she sings the emotionally tinged story-song, “I Dreamed I Drove the Nails”, before the tempo kicks back into high gear for the Pentecostal fervor of “Get Up, Get Down”, which features Rex, and a popping brass section. If the song sounds like something Nancy Harmon would have written, you’d be close…as it was written by her brother, Bill Harmon, and the song leads perfectly into another exciting and up-tempo tune, “Waiting on the Word”, which was written by Beverly and Kenny Sexton and published through Rex Nelon Music. Featuring Amy, this was the only song from this recording that charted for the group, and it only charted for about 3 months, never quite making it into the Top 20. Funny thing, “Get Up, Get Down” and “Waiting on the Word” have a very similar feel and tempo, and the first time I listened to this recording, when “Waiting on the Word” first kicked off, I thought it was an encore to “Get Up, Get Down” until the group started singing!
Slowing the pace way down, Jerry is featured on the ballad, “He’s Not Afraid”, which is another song Jerry co-wrote with Wayne Goodine. Clocking in at over 6 minutes, it’s a uniquely written song with some jazz undertones to it, that was a little different for the Nelons and was a slight departure from Jerry’s normal writing style. The song is a message for the church on the importance of reaching this world for Jesus, and it emphasizes the fact that just as Jesus wasn’t afraid to reach out to those in need, we shouldn’t be afraid either.
Keeping the tempo in slow mode, master song crafters, Colbert and Joyce Croft penned the song entitled, “The Moment I’m Gone”, which has a nice country feel, featuring some electric/steel guitar and harmonica highlights. Featuring Jerry, it has that classic Nelons feel to it and is one of my favorites from this recording, before things finish out with the soothing feel of “The Foot of the Cross”, which was written by Mark Mathes. The orchestrations on this song are absolutely gorgeous, giving it a very warm feel, and rounds out the album with a nice touch.
While this is a good recording, it’s just not one of my personal favorites. I don’t know if it is the pacing (the recording ends with 3 slow songs in a row), or just the general vibe of the recording, but it’s one I haven’t been able to get into. There are several songs with a very similar tempo and feel, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough variety for me. I actually did not get this recording until just a few years ago (thanks eBay!), as for whatever reason I just never added it to my collection. I’d heard a few songs here and there over the years, but nothing ever truly reached out and grabbed me. Finally, I decided I wanted to go ahead and add it to my collection a few years ago, so maybe I just need to live with it a little bit longer.
I know it sounds like a broken record, but once again, changes were on the horizon for the Nelons. This latest change would more than likely rank as one of the most difficult changes to date for the group, as Jerry would eventually bow out. As they had done so in the past, the Nelons would rebound as they continued charging forward and they went on to release, what I would consider to be, one of the best recordings (and one of my personal favorites) they did during the 90’s, aptly titled, “Peace Within the Walls”, which will be my final review in this series on the Nelons…so stay tuned!
Please check out my music page on Facebook for more content related to Southern Gospel Music including more discography reviews on other groups, we well as other thoughts and discussions related to Southern Gospel Music. Please like and follow my page at https://www.facebook.com/James-Music-Page-102612571620560.