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The Sweet Bye and Bye

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2009 16 Feb
The Sweet Bye and Bye
Sounds like … The jazz renderings of Sarah Vaughan, the contemporary piano pop of Norah Jones and the roots rock/Americana flavorings of Emmylou Harris, Julie Miller, and Over the Rhine.At a glance … Original hymns with a historical feel thanks to earthy instrumentation and vintage production qualities.Track ListingGlory Hallelujah Eternal LifeWhen the Trumpet SoundsWhy Should I Be AfraidI Stand In AweI Am Washed By the Blood of JesusGo SweetlyMercy's AngelBeautyIn the Valley

Growing up with missionary parents, Julissa Neely was on the go since she was a mere six weeks old. By the time she was three, the infant was already a world traveler three times over, which translated to a teenage and young adult fascination with other countries and cultures. In addition to ministering with her family, Neely also developed an affinity for artistry by leading worship in several Calvary Chapel churches throughout America and embarking on multiple tours of the UK.

As Neely transitioned towards the life of a troubadour in the late '90s, she split her time between penning personal reflections from a faith perspective and covering classic hymns (captured rather tastefully throughout 2004's Angels Watching Over Me). Her latest, The Sweet Bye and Bye, picks up where that concept left off, once again tracing her penchant for vintage praise while crafting her own hymns within the context of jazz, roots rock, and Americana.

Vocally, Neely cites secular chanteuse Sarah Vaughan as a primary muse, and while she struggles to be as soulful, there are still several jazzy elements to her range throughout "When the Trumpet Sounds" and "I Stand In Awe." Over the Rhine's Karin Bergquist is perhaps a more accurate vocal comparison, which holds even more weight across organic tracks like "In the Valley" and "Eternal Life." Neely takes a more contemporary jazz/piano pop direction throughout "Why Should I Be Afraid," evoking the coffee house quality of Norah Jones, while embracing her Americana side across "Beauty" (similar to Emmylou Harris or Julie Miller).

Even with so much sonic variety, one can't help but find some mildly predictable lyrics across The Sweet Bye and Bye. "I Am Washed By the Blood of Jesus" is the most obvious, which is certainly steeped in sincere spiritual intentions but doesn't really extend beyond a basic message of mercy and redemption that's been told with greater eloquence in countless old school hymns.

Nonetheless, Neely's ingenious musical musings are never up for debate and her vivacious vocal range is enough to carry even the less impressive lyrical moments. Add in her authentic throwback to so many retro styles, and this up and comer hasn't just carved out a unique niche but could inspire younger generations to revisit these often overlooked art forms.

For more information on Julissa Neely, visit

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