The Spirit of New Orleans
Liz McComb

Review by Alex Henderson

For many years, American expatriate gospel singer Liz McComb (a native of Cleveland, OH, who made Paris, France, her new home) wanted to record an album in New Orleans and she fulfilled that goal in April 2001 (pre-Hurricane Katrina), when she traveled to the Crescent City and recorded this excellent CD. The Spirit of New Orleans came out in Europe before it came out in the United States, where it wasn't released until April 2008; McComb wasn't sure how gospel purists in America would feel about the strong jazz influence that she brings to traditional songs like "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and "Ain't No Grave," and she initially had reservations about bringing the album to the U.S. market. But thankfully, McComb eventually decided that The Spirit of New Orleans needed to be heard in America, and she clearly made the right decision. This is an enriching album in which New Orleans gospel is influenced by New Orleans jazz, New Orleans soul, and New Orleans blues; the album never fails to sound like it was recorded in New Orleans, and McComb reminds listeners of the way that religious and secular music have coexisted in the Crescent City for so long. Nonetheless, there is no question that The Spirit of New Orleans is a gospel album first and foremost. From traditional gospel songs to a handful of McComb originals, most of the lyrics on this 52-minute CD are very focused on Christianity and even when McComb detours into secular territory on Jerome Kern 's Tin Pan Alley standard "Old Man River," she still carries herself like a gospel singer. This jewel of a CD is enthusiastically recommended to both religious and secular audiences.

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