God of Many Chances
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Oct
Music critics are sometimes perceived as being too hard on adult contemporary pop, not giving credit where it's due for inspiriational music. But as music critics, we're called to analyze, and if an artist fails to offer anything distinctive or unique—musically or lyrically—we shouldn't give a pass for good intentions alone. We identify mediocrity for the sake of excellence, reserving high praise for truly impressive albums … such as Bonnie Keen's second solo effort,
Keen is best known as a key member of Christian pop vocal group First Call, which disbanded in the mid-'90s. Since then, Keen has wrestled with the emotional effects of a painful divorce and the struggles of single motherhood. Over the years, she has gradually bounced back as an author (
Her husband produced the 12 tracks on
Themes of hope and grace abound, such as the standout ballad, "When God Says No," co-written with Keen's friend Suzanne Gaither Jennings (Bill and Gloria's daughter). Emotions run high thanks to Keen's expressive vocal performance, the pretty orchestration, and the affecting lyrics about understanding God's will: "When God says no, he's always saying yes/Yes, I will protect you/Yes, my child, I know what's best." The title track is simply another well-written and produced ballad of grace and forgiveness, while the soulful pop of "Lay It Down" encourages us to leave our worries and burdens behind. Especially poetic is "Something Was Broken," an upbeat pop/rock song creatively expressing the power of prayer: "Something was broken way up in the sky/Some face of evil felt its very first cry/Darkness was shattered/Chains of despair fell like a whisper/With the words of a prayer."
This album gets it right in every way. The songs are eclectic, each track distinctive and delightful rather than bleeding into each other. Keen's husband, who has impressive pop production sensibilities, deserves much praise, developing an album that's not just one more typical Nashville Christian pop CD with the same production and musician tendencies. Of all the talented musicians on this disc, specific credit goes to the great keyboard work by David Hamilton, Mike Lawler's programming skills, and the soulful guest appearance by Stephen Alexandersen (on "Lay It Down"). And of course, best of all are Keen's stunning vocal talents, offering enough expression and nuance to captivate from song to song; her layered vocals often match the similarly glorious sounds of Annie Lennox.
Because it's on a small label, I doubt you'll hear any of this album on the radio. You may even have trouble finding it in some stores—try www.bonniekeen.com if all else fails. Nevertheless,