By Bob Marovich

May 18 marks the day Bishop Jason Nelson will release his fifth album, The Answer (RCA Inspiration).

Recorded live at Greater Bethlehem Temple Church in Randallstown, Maryland, the album marks Nelson’s tenth anniversary as pastor of Greater Bethlehem Temple, the church his father, Bishop James D. Nelson Sr., once shepherded.

JGM asked the Stellar Award-winning singer and songwriter about a few of the songs on The Answer.

Though the hymnbook-like “Jesus Is the Answer (For the World Today)” opens the album, it was not intended to be the lead-off song.

“Originally, the song fell [in sequence] after ‘Lord of All,’” Nelson said. “From there we went into ‘Jesus Is the Answer.’ But when my wife Tonya heard the playback, she suggested we put the song at the beginning so listeners know what they are about to get. It encapsulates the concept of the record.”

Tonya’s influence can also be heard on the current single, “Forever.” She helped give birth to the song by spontaneously inventing its critical line, “Forever is a long time, and that’s how much I love you,” within earshot of Nelson and his producer and co-writer Dana T. Sorey as they plotted out the album. Nelson said the song continues to do well on radio.

“Stripes” is another album track of note. “’Stripes’ was one of the earlier songs that I wrote,” Nelson explained. “I wrote it while thinking of the Via Dolorosa, the road that led to Calvary’s hill. Jesus was beaten with 39 stripes, and ‘by his stripes we are healed.’ I considered how valuable the stripes were that Jesus took for us, and the song started to pour out of me. I hope it helps someone who needs healing.”

Nelson received a special vocal assist on “You’ve Got Me” from gospel soloist Maranda Curtis. “It was the last song at the live recording,” he recalled, “and Maranda Curtis was there. I brought her up to sing it because this is the kind of song that she can eat for lunch! After she started singing, there was literally nothing else to say!”

Nelson reckons that “In the Room” will be the next single to be released from the album. “It tells a great story and you hear the audience participation in it.”

Indeed, the responses from the live recording audience are more audible on The Answer than on most recent live projects. For Nelson, accentuating the audience was a no-brainer. “Why do we do a live recording,” he wondered, “if we don’t showcase the interactions in hopes of bringing listeners in?”

The singer plans to first release the CD at Greater Bethlehem Temple and then go on tour, hitting cities such as Birmingham, Raleigh, Atlanta, and New York along the way.

“So far everybody who has heard the record loves it,” he said, noting with particular satisfaction the song sequence. It’s good to have great songs, but for the narrative, you need a good sequence.”

For his next project, Nelson is considering reaching back into his catalog to showcase some unreleased songs and new mixes of released material. “I’ve written a whole bunch of music over the past 20 years!” he said.

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.