Cheri Keaggy has just started a new year. Call it prophetic or God's timing, when she sings about "Starting a New Year Today" on her latest release, she ushered in a year of a renewed appreciation in her singing. After years of being out of the limelight, her latest single "There Will Be One Day" suddenly gained traction with radio. As a result, she is currently sharing chart space with Chris Tomlin and Kari Jobe on the top 25 spots of Billboard's Soft AC Inspirational Chart. Ensuing to such an exposure, there is now an accrual interest in her and her music. "There Will Be One Day" is one out of the eleven songs on Keaggy's eighth album "So I Can Tell." And her first since 2007's "Because He First Loved Us." This album was released on the eighteenth anniversary of her debut Sparrow Records "Child of the Father." Though she is the niece-in-law of guitarist maestro Phil Keaggy, she has had never used him as a crutch. Rather, with her amicable delivery and her ability to express God's truth in palatable ways, she has had connected well with her fans with hits such as "There is Joy in the Lord," "Make My Life an Altar," 'Not with Jesus" and "Heavenly Father."
"So I Can Tell" bears greater sonic resemblance to her predecessor "Because He First Loved Us" than her earlier releases. Ever since the turn of the Millennium, this Dove Award winner has moved away from the programmed heavy synth Jack swing of the nineties. Rather, "So I Can Tell" finds a caged free Keaggy meandering along the pathways paved by her muse. Some of the avenues she would traverse through include country, adult contemporary, pop, bluegrass and Americana. Yet, what holds the record together is the twin gifts of her uncle-in-law Phil Keaggy's sparse production and Keaggy's exceptional song writing. A realistic sublimate oozes when Keaggy holds her pen. This is because Keaggy does not write in the abstract, but she often journals her life and faith in her songs. Case in point is the aforementioned "Starting a New Day Today." Written precisely a year after her divorce, "Starting a New Day" is a breezy pop tune bolstered with a jazzy lilt appropriately chronicling her hopes for a better day.
More life inspiring moment abound with "Air, Food, and Water." While Keaggy was wallowing in her despair after her divorce, she was gently chided by her friend and country music stalwart Wynonna Judd that sometimes we are so pain-focused that we forget to give thanks for God's blessings. "Air, Food, and Water" is a laundry list of things Keaggy is grateful for (this includes her shih-tzu Daisy Doo) over a bluegrassy romp. While current hit "There Will Be One Day" was inspired by a woman in her small group suffering from cancer. And when Keaggy opens the song with the words, "O God of comfort comfort me..." you can feel God's glowing presence unravels as the song unfolds. "Hello God," a sensitive piano ballad, is almost conversational-like as Keaggy empties her soul before God. O the other hand, the title cut "So I Can Tell" views suffering not from the perspective of a victim but from that of a woman wizened by the Word of God. Taking her cue from 2 Corinthians chapter 1, "So I Can Tell" puts to music the Godly advice that there are no wasted pains.
Keaggy is not just about taking but she tries to impart God's blessings back to her fans with two of the album's closing songs. The penultimate "Romans 15:13 (The Benediction Song)" puts into words the Biblical verse in a Don Moen-like worship piano number. While producer Phil Keaggy closes the album with the same tune in the guitar-led instrumental "Postlude: An Invitation to Hope." If you are into thoughtful lyrics that ministers over carefully crafted tunes, look no further than this album. If you want a recess from the current guitar-rock driven Christian music out there and clamour for some quiet piano ballads, they are in galore here. More importantly, this new record will hopefully not only usher in a new year for Keaggy but a new start for those struggling to find hope in their pain.