Release Date: August 12th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- What Do You Say?
- Without Your Love
Rarely do I actively listen to music outside my comfort zone of CCM. In fact, dare I go to say, that everyone who has their preferred genre of music rarely listens to anything outside of that. Not to say that I don’t appreciate other musical genres, I’ve just realised that when it comes to music, even still, I tend to err on the side of safe. Nevertheless of late, I’ve been discovering the uniqueness and beauty of music outside of my own preferred genre, from artists in hard rock (Skillet, Nine Lashes), folk (Jillian Chapman), and indie pop/rock (Colony House), to artists without a label, regardless of the genre (LoveCollide, Jordan and Kristen Rippy, John Waller, For the Fatherless). Enter in Amber Nelon Thompson, part of the vocal group The Nelons (think southern gospel meets Avalon, Jason Crabb and The Gaithers).
While I myself have never really listened to much of southern gospel music, Amber’s 4 song solo EP titled Without Your Love nevertheless is a job well done, even though the undertones are still of a southern gospel flavour. An EP to listen to if you want to expand your musical horizon, I’ve been fortunate enough to sit back and enjoy something that, while not your typical CCM radio friendly melody I tend to often hear, is still something that I can appreciate and enjoy. An EP that’s from left field (in a good way), Amber’s soaring vocals and encouragements throughout the songs makes Without Your Love EP one of the most ingenious and genre stretching EP’s/albums since needtobreathe’s Rivers in the Wasteland.
When you listen to the EP from first song to last, you do have a sense of a country/southern gospel/pop feeling, and while not necessarily my first choice of genre if I were to pick, I wasn’t totally turned off, considering that I myself am enjoying the ABC drama Nashville that has its own fair share of country music. While I must admit that it’ll be a long way away before I willingly listen to the southern gospel genre of my own accord, what I can say is this- Amber Nelon Thompson is a fantastic vocalist, and if there are more artists within the southern gospel genre like her (male or female), then I’ll be sure to listen to them as well.
With an acoustic guitar introduction to begin “What Do You Say?”, Amber relays situation after situation of hopelessness, and then anchors the melody on the question- what do we say as followers of Christ to people in dire circumstances? From situations like finding out cancer diagnoses to hearing devastating news of motor vehicle crashes, the song shows us these aftermath moments, and Amber asking listeners questions like ‘…what do you say to just giving in? What do you say to just letting go? Are you brave enough to trust again? Would you rather go this alone?…’ A great song to begin the EP with, “Grateful” and “Without Your Love” follow, with emphasis on the banjo and piano respectively. Presenting a country/pop atmosphere a la Red Roots or Keith Urban, “Grateful” gives us a plethora of reasons for us to be grateful to God for the lives we lead and the circumstances we face, while “Without Your Love” is a rousing piano ballad duet with label mate Joseph Habedank encouraging us all to declare alongside Amber to ‘…don’t let me breathe another breath…without Your love…’
“Falling” the first single from the EP, is the last track on it, and while the most CCM-like melody (which can pose a problem for anyone- not myself though- who may not enjoy the CCM genre that much because of its radio accessibility and lyrical simplicity, “Falling” is still a song needed for us to hear as we are given a theme of God seeing things from a better view compared to us. With a violin, piano and Amber’s soaring vocal, we understand that ‘…Father in heaven, we’ve seen Your heart, redeeming with such love and grace, but even when we feel life falling apart, You see life falling in place…’, highlighting this melody as one of my favourite southern gospel melodies I’ve heard within the last few years, alongside Jason Crabb’s “Love is Stronger” and Red Roots’s “Great Big Yes”.
Well there it is- 4 songs and then the EP’s over. While it may still take some time getting used to southern gospel when I’ve grown up listening to CCM, Amber Nelon Thompson’s EP is great, and one of my favourite EP’s of the year since NF’s debut EP and Jordan & Kristen Rippy’s Seek You First. Boasting a CCM-esque musical backdrop in “Falling”, to hopefully bring in listeners who enjoy CCM that’ll hopefully react positively to southern gospel (people like myself); Amber’s powerful vocals, alone ought to be enough to warrant at least a listen to from start to finish. While the album is on the shorter side (everything adds up to around 17 minutes), Amber’s start as a solo artist is nothing less than promising. Looking forward to a full length album whenever it arises (maybe next year?).
3 songs to listen to: Falling, Grateful, What Do You Say?
RIYL: Red Roots, Point of Grace, Avalon, Jason Crabb