Since its beginnings, bluegrass has been closely connected to Gospel music, with many performers choosing to always include one or two Gospel songs on their records. Entirely Gospel albums have also been quite popular with bluegrass fans. Vocalist Kelley Nelson, a southwest Virginia native who has led her own bluegrass band for the past several years (with her husband Tim), has recently taken the same path and chosen to focus on Christian music with the release of her new album, In the Waiting.
With this thirteen song collection, Nelson draws from both traditional and contemporary influences as she relates Biblical stories and shares her thankfulness for the Lord’s presence. The songs vary between bluegrass tunes and slower, country and contemporary Christian-sounding tracks. Call on Me, which offers a message of hope for those who feel broken and was co-written by Nelson and Dave Woods, fits in the latter category. So does Thanks, which finds the singer praising God for always providing for her. This tune could fit in well on Christian radio, but the chorus almost seems incomplete, as though it’s building up for something and never quite arrives.
The Son is Always With Me in the Mine is a nice contemporary bluegrass song which reflects Nelson’s Appalachian heritage and speaks of miners who may have seldom seen the sun shine, but always knew that Jesus was protecting them. Dale Ann Bradley’s instantly recognizable harmonies provide a nice contrast to Nelson’s lead on both this song and Table for Thirteen, a retelling of the Last Supper.
Old Blind Bartimaeus shares another New Testament story – Jesus’s healing of a blind beggar – and is one of the more traditional sounding songs on the album. Come In is also traditionally influenced, with the feel of a hymn, and reflects Jesus’s invitation to draw near to Him. The hymn Heaven’s Jubilee is also included as a bonus track, with guest vocals from Wayne Taylor and a great upbeat, traditional feel.
Nelson has assembled an all-star cast of musicians for this album, including Tim Stafford (guitar), Adam Steffey (mandolin), Sammy Shelor (banjo), Ron Stewart (fiddle), Justin Moses (dobro), and Jamey Booher (bass). Nelson takes lead vocal duties throughout the album, with harmony added by Dale Ann Bradley, Steve Gulley, Don Gulley, and Bryan Turner. With this supporting cast, the music is definitely solid and well-played. However, having previously played dates with her and seen her band perform multiple times, it would have been nice to have seen a band recording.
For more information, visit Nelson’s website at kelleynelsonmusic.com. Her album can be purchased from Amazon, iTunes, and CDBaby.