I first heard Kathryn Scheldt sing in a little oak-shaded chapel in Mobile, Alabama, the late autumn sun slanting through the windows, as she sang of hope and mercy and despair. There was a power in the lyrics that seemed inseparable from the strength of her voice - a rich contralto that was different from anything I had heard. This was 2005, just a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina, and in her anthem of hope that particular morning, Kathryn was wrapping the heartache we could see all around us in the sacred compassion that came with her faith. We are calling, can you hear it? • We are broken, bones and spirit? • Rain down, Mercy, help us bear it? • Shower us with love • Mercy, send a dove That song, co-written with lyricist Anne Kent Rush of Daphne, was, for me, the most powerful song on a powerful album called Gettin' Ready, Kathryn's first as a solo artist. I was honored when she asked me to write the liner notes, and honored again to make a minor contribution to two of the songs on her next CD, In the Middle of It All. Then in February of 2009, Kathryn came to me with a song called "Southern Girl," and I saw immediately that it could be the centerpiece of her next album. We began to write a few songs together, and as the junior partner in that undertaking, I was impressed with her sense of a woman's journey, so tender and strong, if occasionally uncertain. There were no victims in her musical stories, no traces of self-pity, just a sexy, head-on embrace of life in all it's possibility and hope. The CD that resulted is, I think, one of the finest Americana albums in recent years, produced with an all-star cast of musicians who understand what Kathryn's songs are about. There is plenty more to come from this classically trained musician and educator, turned solo artist, and Southern music will be the richer for it. Frye Gaillard • Writer in residence, University of South Alabama.