Audio Review: Nelons – A Winter’s Carol

Audio Review: Nelons – A Winter’s Carol

November 23 – Nelons – A Winter’s Carol (CD)

Click HERE to hear the entire album on YouTube.

A Winter’s Carol is a 12-song collection of seasonal music by the Nelons that includes a mix of classic carols, a few secular favorites, and more recently written material.

The opening track, “Winter Wonderland,” makes little effort to stand apart from previous recordings of the same song. “The Wexford Carol” is a haunting Celtic-inspired arrangement, almost a cappella at first, and a real gem. It’s too bad this wasn’t positioned as the first track. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” showcases Kelly on a traditional arrangement. I like the way the music drops out at key points near the end of the track to emphasize the vocals. Amber, whose appreciation for all things Disney is well known, is featured on the popular song from the Frozen movie, “Let It Go.” I prefer this version’s fuller accompaniment to Idina Menzel’s recording from the movie soundtrack. “The Christmas Song” is another traditional take on a traditional Christmas classic; a good performance, but not particularly unique.

In 1984, Leonard Cohen wrote “Hallelujah.” In his lyric, the title word is associated with the act of sex and includes confused references to the relationships of David/Bathsheba and Samson/Delilah from the Old Testament scriptures. The song’s popularity grew over the years to the point that several hundred cover versions now exist. The song also appeared in the movie Shrek in 2001. In recent years, several Christian artists have recorded “Hallelujah.” Some of those recordings completely rewrite the song (Triumphant). Of course, Cohen himself didn’t always sing all the verses and was known to change his own lyrics from time to time. The Nelons stick closer to the original words, changing a phrase here and there and skipping a couple of verses entirely to keep the message palatable for a Christian audience.

“What To Expect” is a new song inspired by the title of the popular book for expectant mothers, but applied to Mary, the mother of Christ. I like the way the understated accompaniment on the first verse yields to a fuller production on the second verse, but it gets a little busy in a couple of spots. “Where Are You Christmas” begins with an extended a cappella section, which helps to distinguish the Nelons version from Faith Hill’s recording. “Unspeakable Joy” was written by Bill & Gloria Gaither in 2000. The version on A Winter’s Carol is similar, but I believe it is set at a slightly slower tempo than the version sung by the Happy Goodmans on the Christmas In The Country video in 2000.

“Come December” is a sentimental country song about a soldier coming home for the holidays. “Heaven Sent Help” is also in a country vein, but with more of a sassy attitude similar to songs The Martins have recorded in the past. “Christmas In Heaven” is a nice cover of Scotty McCreery’s popular Christmas season song.

If you’re unhappy with an arrangement or a particular song choice, don’t fret. The next track will be entirely different. Stylistically, A Winter’s Carol is all over the place from traditional covers of secular classics to the mournful “A Wexford Carol” to Disney to straight-ahead country/inspirational. The upside to this approach is you’re sure to find something to enjoy amid all the variety. The Nelons generally check the right boxes when it comes to production quality and vocal performance as well, so there’s much to enjoy on A Winter’s Carol.

Producer: Jason Clark
Songs:
Winter Wonderland; The Wexford Carol; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; Let It Go; The Christmas Song; Hallelujah; What To Expect; Where Are You Christmas; Unspeakable Joy; Come December; Heaven Sent Help; Christmas in Heaven
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: November 23, 2018

Category CD Reviews, Reviews

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

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