Prime Cuts: I Know a Secret, In the Darkness, Made for More
We all know how tragic it is when we are tyrannized by the trifles; when our moods and joys swing like a yoyo depending on what's in our currency. Thus, when a worrisome phone call comes we find our joy dissipating as quickly as the morning dew. When our progress reports arrive at work we find a new sense of crippling fear paralyzing us. And when our spouse give us the cold shoulder immediately we find hurt knocking on our heart's door. At the end of the day we become slaves to our happenstances. We long to have what the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:12 calls as the secret of contentment --- an unshakeable joy in the Lord that prevails regardless of our circumstances. A joy so deeply rooted in Christ that our life exigencies no longer are our mood dictators. Such a Godly theme is at the cynosure of Ginny Owens' eight solo album "I Know a Secret," her long awaited follow-up to 2011's "Get In I'm Driving."
Just as if with her preceding album, Monroe Jones (Third Day, Mark Schultz & Chris Rice) & Jeff Pardo (Mandisa, Love & Outcome) are again in the producer's chairs. "I Know a Secret," like most of the songs in Owens' canon, comprises of 14 songs co-written or written by Owens. In the songs that she has co-written, she has enlisted some of Contemporary Christian Music's best scribes including Dove-winning Songwriter of the Year Cindy Morgan (Natalie Grant, Point of Grace) and lan Eskelin (Francesca Battistelll, Chris August). Visually impaired since she was merely two years-old, Owens has more of a reason than all of us to be discontented with life. Yet, on the title cut, "I Know a Secret" she shares with us the secret of her contentment. Nevertheless, she doesn't really tell us her secret until we get to the second verse of the song. And to add further tease: if you really want to know Owens' secret, you've got to get the CD!
Treading on the album's central theme that our joy is not predicated by our circumstances, "I Will Praise You" is one of the best songs that succinctly expounded on it over a smooth Brit-pop lite tune. Stipped of all polytechnics and only featuring the stark riffs of a grand piano with a soft flurry of strings is the album's hinge piece "In the Darkness." This heart rendering ballad reminds us that we have a Savior who is not unsympathetic to our weakness. Rather, he is one acquainted with suffering, ready to help us in our desperate times. Also, in her balladry best is "Made for More." With lines that call to mind God's call of the prophet Jeremiah, Owens reminds us that we shouldn't let our life's problems blind us from God's purposes in our lives.
Not sure why "No Borders," with its flowing jazzy piano flourishes that calls to mind Jason Mraz, is chosen as the album's lead single. Melodically, it's not the album's best representation. Much better is the beautiful love song to Jesus "I Am Yours," which has a killer almost a cappella intro. John Piper would definitely be overjoyed to hear the folky almost country sounding "Don't Waste Your Life." Despite its radio friendly snappy beat buoyed by some pulse-pounding electronic drums,"What My Life is For" is a song that is prophetically counter-cultural. Challenging our self-centered world where all we think about is hording more stuff to ourselves, this song rightly urges us to live and give to others.
Most unusual and a tad out of place is "O the Deep." Draped over a wartime announcement and the voice of her late cousin Christi, Owens delivers an ethereal (and haunting sound) reading of the 19th Century hymn "Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus." Despite a few adventurous detours, "I Know a Secret" is a solid effort that brims with great Biblical truths being applied to our daily lives iterated over catchy pop melodies.