Release Date: February 12th 2016
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Ubi Caritas
- Holy, Holy, Holy
- Be Thou My Vision
- I Wonder As I Wander
- How Can I Keep From Singing
- Oh The Deep, Deep Love Of Jesus
- Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet
- New Every Morning
- It Is Well
- Even Unto Death
- Abide With Me
Originally signed to Sparrow Records, pop/folk singer songwriter Audrey Assad has already released 3 albums and 2 EP’s over the past few years (The House You’re Building in 2010, Heart in 2012, Fortunate Fall in 2013, and O Happy Fault and Death Not Be Proud in 2014), as well as an EP titled Arrow under the moniker LEVV. Displaying her song writing prowess that I feel personally is in the same category of Jon Forman of Switchfoot, Brooke Fraser, and Bear Rinehart of Needtobreathe; we are now introduced to Audrey’s brand new album released recently, titled Inheritance; a hymns record. Musically different to her previous solo material, in that these melodies are much more mellow, ethereal sounding and mysterious, as well as referencing Jesus more overtly; this album is one of the most confronting and comforting albums in 2016. Fans of All Sons and Daughters, Ellie Holcomb, Sara Groves, Bebo Norman and Nichole Nordeman are sure to love Inheritance; for me it is one of the most musically creative, lyrically and thematically compelling, and spiritually sound albums of 2016 so far- Audrey has definitely done it again! She’s created a musically brilliant piece of work- this is well worth the listen!
A glance down the track list reveals some well known hymns as well as obscure melodies. Starting off proceedings is a song from the latter category- “Ubi Caritas”, a Gregorian melody used on Maudy Thursday as the backdrop of washing feet. Driven by keys and sung entirely in Latin, there’s a sense that this song is Holy Spirit inspired, despite me not knowing or understanding any of the lyrics. As Audrey authoritatively declares that Jesus is with us wherever there is love, and we can indeed praise and worship Him from a sincere heart and the promise that He will never leave us; the vibrant album opener showcases Audrey’s passion and authenticity, as well as her heart for Jesus, which flows on to the rest of the familiar and unfamiliar songs.
Let’s dive in deeper to the rest of the ‘unknown melodies’ shall we? Sung against a mysterious and haunting piano led backdrop of heavenly synth and keyboard, Audrey brilliantly converts a lesser known Christmas carol “I Wonder As I Wander” into an introspective prayer and reflective piece, reiterating that Jesus’ coming to Earth as a baby and dying for our sins, for each one of us personally, still boggles the mind, hence the ‘wondering while wandering’. While the equally reverent, soothing and calming piano and acoustic guitar led “How Can I Keep From Singing” (no not Chris Tomlin’s song from 2006!) has Audrey marvelling at creation and the boundless, endless qualities of Jesus Christ, echoing the sentiment that she can’t stop praising God, as ‘…no storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that refuge clinging, since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?…’; and the 2 minute piano only duet “Oh The Deep, Deep, Love Of Jesus” with Fernando Ortega, may seem short, but nevertheless contains some solid gold and truth, with Audrey and Fernando both reiterating that Jesus’ love stretches out higher than the highest mountain and deeper than the deepest ocean.
“Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” isn’t as profound as Delirious? guitar rocker of the same name, however with light electric guitar present in this 2 minute melody, Audrey’s version of a hymn I haven’t heard before, is just as profound, as she reminds us all of the power of Jesus’ blood and His faithfulness; while the album closer “Abide With Me”, another obscure yet compelling and poignant hymn, led by piano and strings, has Audrey fervently crying out God’s praises, and asking God to be with us, to let us know that He is here with us during times of trouble and circumatnces when we need him. A prayer of longing and desperation, this inspiring album closer reminds us that God’s power is stronger than everything in this Earth, and that we need this power in order for us to accomplish the things God longs for us to do.
Three of the eleven healing and God breathed melodies are songs we all know and love, although I reckon the number is a bit too low in my opinion. “Holy, Holy, Holy”, “It Is Well” and “Be Thou My Vision” are well known melodies that have been sung throughout the years, and Audrey skilfully and brilliantly covers them to perfection. These three songs, being the most loved and most popular, therefore are the three most likely to be noticed to be botched up if Audrey in fact did drastically change the lyrics, or the melody. Thankfully, Audrey keeps all three songs close to as what we know and remember as she can, with her pristine and beautiful voice being able to expertly capture the eternal meaning of the lyrics. With “Holy, Holy, Holy” being a melody where Audrey sings out ‘holy’ to Jesus, and is a close outright worship song as you can get on this album, and “Be Thou My Vision” a haunting synth led ballad of prayer, asking God to be our vision, that ‘…thou my best thought, by day or by night, waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light…’; it is “It Is Well” is my favourite song of the three, and one of my favourite hymns overall, as Audrey passionately sings out and Jesus’ presence in our lives makes our souls whole- the added gospel choir at the end of the album included for extra depth is a nice touch as well!
The final two songs are originals from Audrey. Probably the highest point of the album comes in the form of the longest song on the album. With Audrey at her songwriting best, “New Every Morning” could easily be a modern hymn, and could easily be sung at church on a Sunday morning, and is lyrically one of the simplest yet effective melodies I’ve heard in a while, with Audrey highlighting the eternal fact that God’s mercies are new every morning. With the song in part inspired by John 1 and Genesis 1, an epic crescendo that builds and builds culminating in a majestic instrumental refrain is a stellar added touch that has me marvelling at Audrey’s musicianship and prowess as a songwriter and singer. And “Even Unto Death” is another favourite of mine, as Audrey recounts the fact that we will stand steadfast in our faith and our belief in Jesus Christ, even unto death, that ‘…Jesus, You are my only hope, and You, my prize shall be, Jesus, You are my glory now, and in eternity…’, complete with a soft piano introduction followed by a professional, stirring orchestral crescendo, ending a high quality album.
Though Audrey Assad has been very busy of late, with her full length LEVV side project full album release sometime soon; it’s still evident that Audrey’s busyness doesn’t compromise the quality in her song writing and singing. With O Happy Fault and Death Not Be Proud being some of 2014’s buried treasures; Audrey has provided us with an edifying, worshipful and inspirational experience in Inheritance that will be guaranteed to succeed, despite the unfamiliarity of some of the songs. So should you check out this album on iTunes? Most definitely! Let us know what you think of the songs!
3 songs to listen to: Holy, Holy, Holy, It Is Well, New Every Morning
RIYL: Nichole Nordeman, Ellie Holcomb, Sara Groves, Brooke Fraser