Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Because He First Loved Us - Cheri Keaggy

Before we last heard from her on Let’s Fly (2001), Cheri Keaggy had become widely know in Christian circles for adult contemporary and inspirational music. She gained immediate attention through her Charlie Peacock produced debut, Child of the Father (1994). Some of her songs fit the praise and worship format, which led to the release of: There is Joy in the Lord: The Worship Songs of Cheri Keaggy (1999). But aside from the Very Best of Cheri Keaggy in 2006, it’s been a long wait for something new.

Where has she been? "Over the last few years I’ve been marinating in all kinds of stuff, just trying to listen to God’s voice and be obedient, trying to parent intentionally and grow in my relationships," said Keaggy. "The Christian life can be quite an adventure! These songs are pieces … of that."

Because He First Loved Us opens with one of the strongest songs. Inspired by John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, "Stay to the Middle" makes a series of contrasts between fear and faith. "Fear creeps in to keep you frozen / Faith says pray and move ahead / Fear says you will always be broken / Faith knows that broken things can mend." Deliverance is found in keeping to the middle of the path.

The music on this song and some others has a slight alternative or rock edge, which adds to the appeal. Producer Tom Hemby does an excellent job of providing a clean, organic sound with a touch of creativity.

Though this is the first release on her own label, Keaggy keeps to the style that has brought her to this place. Fans of her earlier recordings and adult contemporary pop will enjoy some of her best work.

Cheri wrote all the songs with the exception of Carole King’s "You’ve Got A Friend," which is included as a bonus track. This has always been a great song, and here it’s done as a duet with country singer Marty Roe of Diamond Rio.

Uncle-in-law Phil Keaggy contributes a couple of short guitar solos on "This is the Love." As good as he is, he’s not able though to steal the spotlight from Cheri, the Hemby brothers, and the other fine musicians and contributors, including Tom Howard, who adds strings.

Cheri’s songwriting ability is evident throughout. A good example is found in the piano-driven "Restored (The Grindstone Song)." Though it deals with a weighty subject, it has a light, whimsical feel. "I’ve been living against the grindstone / Where nothing is sure but the Lord / For He gives us the treasures of darkness / Where faith’s greatest riches are stored / And in ways that are quite unexpected / I have learned a most humbling truth / That a faith that has never been tested / Is just growth that is long overdue."

The quiet and beautiful, "The Reason I Stand Tall," marvels at God’s love for us as one of a kind individuals. Her Christian perspective is ever in the forefront and God’s love and grace are a constant theme.

Cheri is blessed with a beautiful voice and is an accomplished songwriter. This is a return to the adult contemporary/inspirational music that has defined her career.
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