Lisa McClendon

Live From The House Of Blues (New Orleans)

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Lisa McClendon brings a hybrid mix of jazz, soul, and funk to her praise & worship style of urban gospel, and backed here by an eight-piece band complete with horns as well as a seven-person vocal chorus, her sound on this live recording from a gig at the House of Blues in New Orleans is big, thick, and substantial. McClendon isn't a shouter in the deep gospel mold so much as a jazz-inflected singer who depends almost entirely on subtle phrasing and nuance in her vocals, and given this huge backdrop to work against, her vocal lines skip brightly over the surface almost as a counterpoint. It works, though, giving these deeply spiritual songs a wonderfully full and commercial veneer. Among the highlights here are the impressive opener, "Made," a straight in the pocket cover of the Winans' "Uphold Me," the stomping, joyous, and ever-shifting "You Can," and the set closer, "Move on Over," which is completely bright and infectious. Also worth noting is the 11-minute medley of songs, "Soul Music Medley," from McClendon's second album, Soul Music, which sandwiches "Hey Now," "Stuck," "You Are Holy," and "Secret Garden" into a pocket tour. Endlessly positive and hopeful, McClendon manages to avoid cliché in her praise & worship songs, making them even more striking, and with a band as good as this behind her, she gives this material a solid range of dramatic dynamics, dropping things at times back to a near whisper, then letting the band explode into joy on the turnarounds.

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