Salvation’s Song Music
The first question a new listener of Kelley Nelson’s new CD might be, “Who is Kelley Nelson?” After a few minutes, the next question might be, “Why haven’t I heard of Kelley Nelson?” Not far behind will be, “Man, who are those pickers backing her up?” Nelson’s debut, In The Waiting, might be what helps her grow from a regional following in her native Southwest Virginia. She has played bluegrass for years and decided to focus on Christian music while not straying from her traditional presentation.
The album offers the extremely clean and crisp vocals of Nelson, and the solid instrumentation of an all-star cast of pickers. Tim Stafford is on guitar, Jamey Booher keeps time on bass, Adam Steffey handles the mandolin, Ron Stewart fiddle, Sammy Shelor banjo, and Justin Moses is on resonator guitar. Harmony and guest vocals come from Dale Ann Bradley, Wayne Taylor, Steve Gulley (who also produced the CD), Bryan Turner, and Don Gulley. That is a lot of hardware on one disc, and it shows.
In The Waiting is clearly designed to serve more than one market, offering contemporary sounds, as well as bluegrass and a mix of both. For example, the last track “Heaven’s Jubilee,” a public domain reprise with Blue Highway’s Taylor, would be a welcome gospel tune on any festival stage. By the same token, Shelor’s distinctive kickoff to the opening track “Angels On High” provides the other bluegrass bookend, in between which a series of mellow, easy to listen to contemporary sounds can be found. “Thanks,” one of two songs penned by Marvin Clark, as well as Nelson’s own “Call On Me” are prime examples of soulful tunes one might find on a contemporary Christian music radio station. East Coast festival staple Will Mullins’ “Come In” is another nod to the traditional gospel bluegrass crowd.
In short, Nelson has made plenty of good choices in her first effort. The recording quality, instrumentation, vocals set the bar of professionalism pretty high. There is plenty of material to appeal to a variety of listeners and leaves just one question. “When we will hear more?” (www.kelleynelsonmusic.com)MB