Sarah Jane Nelson

REVIEW: Sarah Jane Nelson “Shelby Park”


Sarah Jane Nelson – Shelby Park

This 10-cut CD by the beautiful Sarah Jane Nelson is the 6th for the Arkansas-born singer now from Nashville. Sarah produced this with Jamie Tate & recorded it at The Rukkus Room. Shelby Park (Drops April 29–Independent). It features Ms. Nelson’s fine articulate vocals; filled with genuine country presence. She should be signed to a major by now.

Sarah Jane Nelson

The ballad “Drive,” has a little drama but it comes down to a scenario many can relate to. That’s the secret to great country songs. Of course, there are comparisons to some vintage country singers but what Sarah has is songwriting skills. The more famous country singers didn’t always have this. They relied on commercial, mainstream country songwriters for the material. Sometimes they’d get a song made of whiskey, some would be made of collards & turnips & some would be filled with bags of sugar.

Sarah uses her own recipes. Though she fancies standard country-fare lyrics she does weave tales in a clever evocative way. Then applies her incisive vocals to make them a reality. What’s a little weak can be fixed. The song titles don’t have enough worm on the hook. One-word titles aren’t always the way to go. “Tired,” should read “Tired of Driving From the Backseat” — the whole title tells it all.

“Cuddle Up,” “Smile Pretty,” add up to juvenile, somewhat elementary titles. But it’s the title that first sells a song. Sarah’s songwriting & lyrics are wonderful, but the titles need more enticement — to draw in listeners. Ask yourself, why would I want to listen to this? The title tells you why.

Her lyrics are persuasive but they’re still simple. I understand the need for a commercial hit with an easy-going title. 1 or 2 is fine. Not the entire LP. Especially when the songs are indeed high quality. And they are.

Sarah Jane Nelson

For instance, “Space,” — a wonderful song about being alone, having more space. But you see, I thought the song was about outer space. It needs more info. It’s a captivating song that many will relate to. She itemizes things in her quiet house that is empty now. The bed, the chairs. This is powerful & poignant. Title? Should be “Space Tells Me You Went Away.” That makes listeners curious about learning more. This is a great country song. The violin-driven “I Wish I Missed You,” is in an old-fashioned tradition & it too is satisfying. Wonderful title & well-sung.

The band: Pat McGrath (Acoustic Guitar, banjo, mandolin), Jimmy Nichols & Jody Nardone (piano), Tommy Harden (drums), Alison Prestwood, Paul Martin & Vickie Vaughn (bass), Smith Curry, Kurt Ozan (dobro), Smith Curry (pedal steel), Jeff King & Kurt Ozan (electric guitar), Joe Spivey, Andrea Young & Bobby Chase (violins) & Melodie Chase (cello).

Sarah’s a distinguished, versatile & important artist. She channels the legends without sounding like them.

Color images: Kurt Ozan. The 32-minute CD available @

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