Liz McComb

Liz McComb

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Born in Cleveland from a modest, Deep South-rooted family, this intensely soulful singer -- whose voice approximates what Gladys Knight would sound like if she only sang for the Lord -- became the most celebrated gospel singer overseas, from Paris (where she lives) to countries in Africa. Soon after her arrival in Europe some two decades ago, she was the guest star who opened local shows for James Brown and Ray Charles; she then formed a gospel quartet and struck out on her own. Her wild gospel jam style is effective and infectious, whether she's tackling traditional spirituals like "Don't Let the Devil Ride" (which is part blues fun, part anti-Satan anthem) and "Jesus Is a Rock" (slower, brooding, but even more emotional) to numerous powerful originals. Among the best of these are the booming, percussive "You Can't Hurry God" (all Christians can learn a little patience, after all), "The Man Upstairs" (a jazzy ballad), and seductive "Fire" (which comes in two versions, a live 11-minute rendition and a short radio edit). "Chant De Liberte/Song of Freedom" is a folksy and anthemic ode to the freedom of Nelson Mandela, whose travails function as a sort of metaphor for the spiritual freedom of Christianity.

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