Jonathan Nelson – Fearless

Jonathan Nelson-FEARLESS album coverJonathan Nelson
Light Records/Entertainment One Music (release date: March 18, 2016)

By Bob Marovich

Who would have imagined, back in 2004 when he appeared on the national gospel music scene, that the irrepressible new-school gospel artist Tye Tribbett would someday lead an old school-style praise break?

That’s exactly what he does at the conclusion of Fearless, the live recording from Stellar Award-winner Jonathan Nelson. The eight-plus minute “I Give You Glory,” with Tribbett as pastor/song leader, rides along on a praise break beat, tying Nelson’s fifth album in the splendid ribbon and bow it deserves.

Recorded live at the Faith Center in Sunrise, Florida, Fearless features an extroverted, confident, always-in-control Nelson praising and demonstrating unwavering fealty to God in songs such as the title track, the call-and-response “Name of the Lord,” and “I Believe (Island Medley).” Nelson is of the new generation of smooth tenors (Kevin LeVar, Micah Stampley, Keith Williams, Brian Courtney Wilson, Earnest Pugh, e.g.) whose handsome voices grace gospel music with a richness evocative of the original gospel hymn singers who were more subtle than melismatic in their vocal delivery.

Nelson’s creamy tenor is best exemplified on the single, “Anything Can Happen,” while his niece, fifteen-year-old Jade Milan Nelson, offers an equally lovely vocal on the worship ballad, “Amazing Love.” The latter transitions into a “Jesus Chant,” featuring twin brother Jason, which itself rides on the back of a crystalline worship ballad, “Everything You Are.”

Tribbett is among the album’s all-star lineup of guest vocalists, including Dorinda Clark Cole, who gives “Forever Settled” a Sunday morning treatment. Kim Burrell scats and squalls through “Brand New,” which riffs on the Revelation 21 verse, “He makes all things new”–things, she sings, that include you and me. Da T.R.U.T.H. raps on the title track, while African artist Sonnie Badu lends passionate cries to “Baba Oh,” which seems forever on the precipice of launching into that infectious African gospel beat, but sadly stops short.

The musicians and background vocalists follow Nelson’s every vocal move as if they were his muscles and nerves. Fearless is well paced and demonstrates how a project can be musically versatile and passionate yet remain firmly rooted in the atmospheric and hypnotic P&W technique. A digital version on iTunes features three bonus tracks.

Five of Five Stars

Picks: “Anything Can Happen,” “I Give You Glory.”

About 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.