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"Defender", Chris McClarney - CD Review

By Ed Rotheram on May 31, 2011

The first thing that springs to mind for anyone Iʼve encountered who has heard the name

Chris McClarneyis "Your Love Never Fails". When Jesus Culture took this anthem on

board as the title track for their 2008 album of the same name, Chrisʼs provenance as a

songwriter definitely increased a notch or two.

The above summations were about as much as I knew of Chris until listening to his Defender album - and on hearing this album I realised that his respect as a songwriter runs far deeper than one song. Chris has established a great songwriting relationship with Dave Fitzgerald (a great friend of All About Worship), and several of their co-writes are prevalent on this album (Daveʼs versions of the songs are on his Hope of Heaven release).

The first in this series of co-written songs with Dave is "Still Saving Me". The simplicity of the production on this track is something to behold. Drums, bass, a Hammond organ and a clean, bluesy electric guitar...what more could you need? The simplicity and effectiveness of the backing gives a wealth of space for Chrisʼs distinctive vocal to sit over the top, creating an atmospheric mix more than conducive to worship.

The depiction of a call for the light of Heaven to shine down is well represented in Chrisʼs version of another co-write with Dave - "Shine (We Wait)". Subtle, delayed guitar creates an ethereal ambience early in the track, under which sensitive drums, bass, and acoustic guitar give the song a basis from which to build. The song explodes into life a couple of minutes in, with the drums taking over the driving of the song, heightening the desire for the Lordʼs presence to fall.

The third in this series of co-writes with Dave sees Chris do his version of “In Your Presence (Sweeter)" - one of the few piano-led tracks on the album. Again, we find that Chris does a great job of starting a song gently, with subtle production, using the middle part of the song to build (with a kick drum and acoustic guitar increasing in presence). The electric guitar doesnʼt really come to the fore until quite late on this track, and when it does, driving rhythmic chords combine succinctly with a lead line that takes the song to a new level. The energy displayed in this song, for me, defines Chris as a worship leader - ready to go the whole way in His praise to the Lord.

The album contains many self-penned tracks, and Iʼll highlight two for you - “God of Our Yesterdays", and “Who Is This Love Amazing?”. I have heard a few great songs recently that describe how God helps us through the hard times, and “God of Our Yesterdays” continues to keep the message burning strong that God is with us, no matter what weʼre going through. Sensitively arranged, again with a prominent piano part, this song is vocally richer than some others on the album, particularly in the chorus where several vocal parts can be heard.

“Who is This Love Amazing?” is a more lively offering, with a breathtaking chorus that sounds as if weʼve been singing it for years. The image of the gates of the city opening up, for King Jesus to come in through them is a deeply moving picture, and in this song, Chris paints the scene with passion and fervour.

If you are looking for a worship leader/songwriter with passion, heart, anointing and a deep love for the Lord, look no further. Chris is doing several events in the UK this year, and I have the privilege of attending a few of them. If he comes your way, be sure not to miss him.

-Review by Ed Rotheram

(review copy provided by Kingsway) Defender - Chris McClarney

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