by Paul Landkamer
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When Jessica McLean’s Designed to Dream CD arrived in the mail, I saw a CD with a pretty blonde singer with her acoustic guitar with lots of pink in the cover art, and bits of light blue to boot. It looked like I was in for more of the sticky-sweet easy-listening stuff so stereotypical of Christian music. The music very pleasantly surprised me! (Well, OK, I’d heard song clips on MySpace, so I wasn’t totally caught unaware.)
My daughter heard her and said she sounds like all the rest, but I considered that statement. Jessica McLean, in my opinion, doesn’t sound anything like Rachel Lampa, Out of Eden, Staci Orrico, Nicole C. Mullin, Point of Grace, Amy Grant, Crystal Lewis, Avalon, nor any of those from what I call the stereotypical end of the Christian music spectrum. Jessica doesn’t sound like the hard-edged Evanescence, Eowyn, Gretchen or Flyleaf. She’s not like Benjamin Gate, Joy Williams, Nicole Nordemann, Jaci Velasquez, Ashley Cleveland, Everlife, Superchick, Barlow Girl, nor like Jennifer Knapp, Sixpence None the Richer, Over the Rhine, Rebecca St. James, nor a multitude of others who fall well within the styles of music I listen to for pleasure. I had to admit, however, Jessica McLean had a familiar sound. Then it hit me, The female artists I listen to most are ones I like! Those are the ones my daughter normally hears me listening to. Jessica’s got a sound quite similar to a Sarah Brendel, Ginny Owens and Sarah Masen blend. If you’ve read my reviews on them, you’ll know, in my opinion, Jessica McLean is another must-have for your music collection!
What you’ll get is beautiful, no-gimmicks, clear, almost hypnotic vocals that are perfectly matched to the acoustic instrumentals. And don’t curl your nose at “acoustic”. She uses real cello and violin to enhance the guitar, bass and drums. You won’t hear those fake keyboardy strings effects. The music is relaxing, yet doesn’t fall into the don’t-operate-heavy-machinery-while-under-its-influence category. It’s interesting and draws you into the strongly spiritual and open lyrics. It’s not often I repeat albums without putting a change in between, but I catch myself listening to Designed to Dream over and over.
The title track expresses the theme that we are “designed to live our dreams”. The song is nicely upbeat, and could make for a decent crossover into the mainstream. I did note a stress on “designed”, which can only mean a Creator. Track two sings that in the light, we’re at peace, we can see and we are free. A thought that struck me while listening is how easy it is for too many to be able to see the light without being in it. Track three is about God’s infinitely huge love and how pondering that can make one “feel brand new again”.
The fourth track is one of my favorites, and is the one featured in a music video I got to see in the DVD Jessica’s husband helped produce. That DVD was impressive enough that I ordered a block of them to pass out to friends and passers-by. That’s another story. The song is about how God can’t possibly be unreal. Just ponder creation, and the facts that His presence can be felt, and that he’s changed so many people. The next song expresses the falsity of the popular notion that all the answers can be found within oneself. Jessica goes on to sing that God loves us as we are, but that’s no reason to resist being made “beautiful from inside out”. Track six has a countryish flavor and sings that we shouldn’t run from Jesus when He offers His love so freely.
Track seven says good things come to those who wait on the Lord. Track eight reminds us that nothing in this world is certain: friends, family, possessions, even the world itself. God is truly all we need. Track nine is a re-make of the old classic, “How Great Thou Art”. Too often singers modernize and distort familiar songs as to frustrate, and with me, even irritate, folks who might like to sing along. Jessica McLean’s version is clear and with only slight variations from the old familiar tune. She didn’t know it, but I sang a duet with her in my library delivery van –twice, today!
Jessica McLean’s Designed to Dream is pure ear candy with a message. The DVD, Noah’s Arc is also a don’t miss. Check ‘em both out! I really think you’ll be happy you did! And Jessica, thank you for your sharing the talent God gave you!
Always let your music help keep your focus on Jesus!
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