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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Designed to Dream

  • reviewed by Christa Banister Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Oct
Designed to Dream
Sounds like … earthy folk/pop that recalls Jewel's early work, Leigh Nash, Jonatha Brook, and Bethany Dillon.At a glance … with confessional lyrics and a sweet but distinctive voice, Designed to Dream is a delightful listening experience.Track Listing Designed to Dream
In the Light
Ocean Song
Good Things Come
All I Need
How Great Thou Art

Although she barely looks out of high school in her press photos, Jessica McLean is a married 24-year-old singer/songwriter who has been expressing her heart through music since she was 14. Now with her debut album, Designed to Dream, her musings of past and present have been seamlessly brought together on a project that's introspective, encouraging and artful.

A native of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, McLean counts Indigo Girls, Fleetwood Mac, Edie Brickell, Jewel and Alanis Morissette among her many musical influences. Although her soft, pixie-like voice isn't a dead ringer for any of these acts vocally, their knack for expressive lyrics and an earthy musical approach is definitely present in McLean's work.

On the lilting "Beautiful," one of the album's best tracks, there's a genuine sense that McLean has lived through the self-esteem struggle when she sings, "It's hard to see the real me, but I just long to praise you." The same goes for "Good Comes Come," which richly and vividly expresses the loneliness that many singles feel when praying for the "right one" to come along.

But more than merely being therapeutic, the album also has its celebratory moments, too, particularly on "Ocean Song" which raves about creation and "the very God who hung the stars and made the sea," while "Designed to Dream" was the musical result of seeing her husband Nic's directoral film debut come to pass with an evangelical surfing documentary titled Noah's Arc. Also noteworthy is the closing track, a cover of "How Great Thou Art." While the song has been covered ad nauseum with the recent resurgence of hymns in Christian music, it's a fitting—and beautiful—tribute to her roots as McLean grew up singing hymns in church.

And while she may not be a household name just yet, she's quickly making waves, not only with this CD, but as a songwriter. Recently, she was a finalist in VH1's "Song of the Year" contest, and two songs from Designed to Dream, the title track and "Again" are now garnering radio airplay.

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