Crosswalk.com aims to offer the most compelling biblically-based content to Christians on their walk with Jesus. Crosswalk.com is your online destination for all areas of Christian Living – faith, family, fun, and community. Each category is further divided into areas important to you and your Christian faith including Bible study, daily devotions, marriage, parenting, movie reviews, music, news, and more.

Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Soul Music

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Sep
  • COMMENTS
Soul Music
Sounds like … jazzy and organic neo-soul/R&B that fans of Lauryn Hill, Out of Eden, Macy Gray, and India Arie can appreciateAt a glance … while some will tire of the mellow sounds, Soul Music offers a lot of food for thought with an intelligent and spiritually challenging neo-soul album

Soul Music is the second release from Lisa McClendon, who was initially reluctant to become a solo artist. After high school, the Florida native joined female urban group 3N1 and ministered throughout the southeastern U.S. Since then, she's served as a worship leader at Potter's House in Jacksonville, content with songwriting and performing at her church. It took some prodding from her husband and her church community to sign with a record label, starting with the independent Shabach Entertainment. After releasing her 2002 debut, My Diary, Your Life, she later signed with Integrity's gospel imprint, somewhat hesitant since the label didn't have any other soul artists.

I'm guessing Integrity was attracted to McClendon's relatively unique style. She's a breath of fresh air amidst all the overproduced female groups vying to be gospel's answer to Destiny's Child. It's neo-soul, incorporating elements of jazz and modern R&B via mellow grooves and organic sounds—acoustic guitars, electric piano, brushed drums, occasional horns. There are obvious comparisons to soulful divas such as Lauryn Hill, Macy Gray, and India Arie, but there's also some similarity to the retro-jazz of Norah Jones.

As a worship leader, McClendon covers a couple of standards, Scott Wesley Brown's "You Are Holy" and Marie Barnett's "Breathe," offering soulful and jazzy renditions of both, and putting a different spin on the latter without dramatically altering it. But it's McClendon's originals that stand out. Even more striking than her sound are her lyrics. She's intent on taking the gospel beyond the church walls by tackling an array of life issues. "Stuck (Love's Anthem)" is frank in its exhortation about settling arguments and frustrations in romantic/marital relationships, while "Has Anybody Seen Love" offers stories of loneliness and depression to point to Christ as the one true source of love. And then there's the bold call to evangelism on the jazzy and soulful "Go," which uses Psalm 19:14 and Matthew 28:19 as a rallying call: "But if I keep quiet and not say a word/How will they ever know what's causing me to fear rejection?/You had to face it too, Lord/Give me boldness to share your goodness so they can know the truth."

McClendon's way with words is also evident in "Old School," a satirical reminiscence of the good ole days in church while also thanking God for reforms over the years: "Remember if your nails were red you were Jezebel?/And if you wore pants you were going to hell?" In "Capture," she wonders what impression of Jesus she leaves with people day to day: "What picture have we painted?/So many times your name has been tainted/People want the real truth/Everyday I'll direct them right to you." In "The Truth Is…" she writes: "The truth is we've all fallen short of the glory of God … no religious system can substitute a repentive heart."

As if McClendon hadn't displayed enough thoughtfulness, she's interestingly labeled her lyrics in the CD booklet, identifying verses and choruses as "celebration," "observation," "revelation," and "truth" to name but a few. Through all of the songs, she humbly deflects attention away from herself and onto God, yet never doing so with trite or overused sentiments. In recent years, it's become rare for the R&B gospel genre to challenge listeners with unique insight and inspiration, relying more on fad and cliché to entice.

Soul Music is pretty mellow, and fans of straightforward pop melodies might not embrace the jazziness. And for what it's worth, McClendon could benefit from some variation in sound and energy—I get the feeling she'd be just as good at some soulful dance tracks or something else upbeat. Nevertheless, Soul Music is a fine example of taking timeless Christian truths and applying them to music with relevance and personality. It's inspirational R&B for the heart and mind. Lisa McClendon is clearly an artist to watch.


Follow Crosswalk.com