One of the two Catholic CCM/worship musicians (the other being Matt Maher) that I know in an industry still dominated by Evangelical Christians and Protestants, independent artist Audrey Assad has a great ability to deliver some of the most poignant, soothing, uplifting and emotional songs ever written within these last few years. Primarily a piano-focused musician, it is her clever piano-based melodies and her heartfelt and passionate vocals that highlight the tracks time and time again, from the encouraging ‘Sparrow’, a reimagining of the hymn ‘His Eye is On The Sparrow’, to her most famous acoustically driven track ‘For the Love of You’ and the worshipful ‘Restless’. Now having released her 3rd album Fortunate Fall independently, Audrey’s reputation at delivering moments of heartfelt praise coupled with songs of lament, reflection and tranquil moments of solace, prayer and surrender is enough for any fan of Audrey’s (myself included) to be excited for her August 13th release. Funded through Kickstarter, Fortunate Fall is a 11 track journey into Audrey’s personal writing process, as we discover her encouragement for the album as a whole, that ‘…no matter how ugly or brutal or seemingly beyond all hope life may present itself to be, one very deep and lovely Truth of Christianity is that Jesus is making, and will make, all things new…’Our personal falls in our own lives are fortunate, not because we believe that Christ caused our faults and falls, but rather, God shapes them and reminds us that when we cling onto Him in these moments, we can rise above our personal issues to collectively declare God as the redeemer of all things. Personally one of my favourite independently recorded albums that has released (or slated to be released) throughout the July-September period; Audrey has once again delivered fresh new songs to be contemplated upon with an open heart, from the 6 minute epic anthem ‘Good to Me’ to the solemn and re-recorded and melody altered ‘Spirit of the Living God’. A great purchase if you love Audrey’s past music or beautifully crafted indie worship music; Fortunate Fall is a standout and one of my favourite albums of 2013 so far!
‘Good To Me’ was the first single from the album, and along with Audrey’s rendition of ‘Come Thou Font’ (which is not onFortunate Fall), have been placed on noisetrade for a while as a free download to the public. Presented with a powerful piano backdrop, we are reminded of God’s goodness in this lyrically simple, yet just as hopeful and poignant melody. From first piano riff, Audrey’s soothing vocals declare out that ‘…I put all my hope on the truth of Your promise and I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness…’ Something that every one of us ought to remember and place on their hearts and refer to on a regular basis, Audrey’s first single does a great job in reiterating the simple fact that God is good to us, despite and in spite of our actions or lack of. Standing at 6 minutes long, Audrey doesn’t make the song boring or long-winded, with the introduction of light acoustics starting from verse 2 after a while with just the piano and her singing. Reminding ourselves constantly that God is good may not necessarily be as easy as we think because of our life circumstances, yet we still ought to try, and hopefully Audrey’s melody can give us the impetus and motivation to also declare the words if we really mean them- and if not, hopefully the song will be a great catalyst to ask the question why. Personally just as good (if not better) than Audrey’s single ‘Sparrow’ from Heart, this is a track that’ll certainly cement Audrey’s album as one of the best independently produced albums of 2013 so far. Well done Audrey for such a powerful and compelling first single.
‘I Shall Not Want’ is another one of my personal standouts from Fortunate Fall, again primarily piano focused as we hear the song start off with a piano riff alongside a violin. As Audrey prayerfully asks the Lord to deliver her from a list of things that she thinks will lead her astray from seeking and pursuing the Lord wholeheartedly; we are able to reflect also ourselves, as we delve deeper within our hearts and wonder, if I were to sing the lyrics that Audrey sings, will I wholeheartedly mean it myself? The lyrics and underpin ‘I Shall Not Want’ are deep, poignant and often challenging, as we hear Audrey declare that ‘…when I taste Your goodness I shall not want…’ As we re-evaluate our relationship with Christ and figure out if we too can honestly say that God’s goodness is enough for us, the song can hopefully be the impetus and catalyst for inward change and transformation moving forward. ‘Humble’, another hopeful and poignant track, reminds us of how humble Christ was when He lived on Earth, hopefully inspiring us as we ask for God’s guidance to continuously live a Christ centred and godly life. Starting off the song in a slow and reflective manner, Audrey promotes the theme of humility, that as we humble ourselves and decrease, God in turn is magnified. Not that we should think less of ourselves than what we really are, but rather we shouldn’t think more of ourselves than what we are capable of. Humility is a great asset in our lives as we place our importance in perspective with the never-ending story of God, which is certainly portrayed in this elegantly choreographed track, complete with church organs and a mesmerising choir. Leading on from such a hard-hitting and lyrically challenging song is ‘O Happy Fault’; an instrumental track full of organs, wind chimes, and a rising choir possibly singing in Latin. A 2 minute song to sooth the individual and create an atmosphere of contemplation and reflection; Audrey reminds us to look inside ourselves at our faults, and be thankful that Christ is weaving even them to His glory and our good. Well done Audrey for both ‘Humble’ and ‘I Shall Not Want’; two of my favourite songs on the album (apart from ‘Good to Me’), with both having equal chance at becoming 2nd single in the future.
‘Help My Unbelief’ is a call to the Lord to do whatever it takes for us to take notice of Him for who He is so that our doubts, unbelief, worry and uncertainty may fall away; while the first track ‘Fortunate Fall’, a song that allows us to stop, ponder and reflect upon Jesus’s sacrifice amidst the busy lifestyle we all lead sometimes. With Audrey declaring that it was a ‘…fortunate fall, that gained for us, so great a Redeemer…’; we are again reminded of how much Christ did for us so that we may eternally live, presenting to us a sobering thought of thanks, gratitude and hopeful tranquillity in the middle of chaos and jam-packed lifestyles. Audrey also presents to us a modern musically altered ‘Spirit of the Living God’, a hymn written by Henry Hallum Tweedy. While the only ‘Spirit of the Living God’ I know is the one covered by Phil Wickham where he declares ‘…Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me…’; this version sung by Audrey is delivered in its original stanza Old English format, reminding us again of the timelessness of hymns and their relevance in today’s culture and society. As we hopefully immerse ourselves into the theme of allowing Christ to come and manifest (either physically or spiritually) on the church so that they can be on fire for Christ again in a new way than before; Audrey’s passionate vocal delivery is a great asset to an already poetic and deeply-piercing hymn.
From the piano driven Matt Maher co-written song ‘Lead Me On’, a poetic reimagining of Psalm 23, to the heartfelt ‘Lead Kindly Light’, a prayerful piano track where Audrey asks the Lord for guidance and Him to lead her on the straight and narrow path He has for her (with the theme resemblant of Pilgrim’s Progress); we are reminded throughout both these tracks that Christ leads and we follow. With both songs indicating that we ought to be humble enough for us to allow Christ to take control of our lives and show us the way He longs for us to follow and travel; it is the last song ‘You Speak’ that is one of Audrey’s most personal and heartfelt track on the album. Again a piano driven track, it is in the moments of less instruments where the lyrics become ever more poignant. As Audrey shares in an interview with ChristianMusicZine;‘…You Speak is the one that, well, speaks to me the most. It’s perhaps the most confessional of the whole lot—silence is something I love, and something I don’t fight for enough—and God does communicate the most clearly to me when I can manage to quiet my heart. More importantly, when my heart is quiet, we don’t have to speak at all…it’s closer and more intimate than that, like a gaze between lovers…’ As I reflect upon this statement spoken by Audrey, I myself am given great motivation to look inside myself to see if I have been given enough time to the Lord to speak to me, and whether in silence or in chaos; setting moments during the day aside for the Lord is crucial for any relationship. Silence is something that I’m sure everyone struggles with, and hopefully this revealing and confronting song will hopefully give us some drive and grit to set aside time to commune with God (I know I’ve been challenged!). One of the most enjoyable songs on the album, ‘You Speak’ will possibly be a fan favourite by Audrey Assad fans as the weeks and months pass. Well done Audrey for such a poignant and emotional last song on Fortunate Fall.
Overall: Audrey Assad’s third full-length album is just as enjoyable as her first two, despite the album being produced independently, thereby showing listeners that an album can still be good, if not, great, regardless of whether an artist is on a label or not. Alongside other recently independent artists like Jimmy Needham and Kerrie Roberts, Audrey’s quality in her music hasn’t waned a bit since funding her album through kickstarter. Also releasing a live CD/DVD later on during the year and a Christmas album in the works, Audrey’s first instalment in a busy rest of 2013 is certainly one of my favourite albums (signed or unsigned) of the year. From ‘Good to Me’ to ‘I Shall Not Want’ and ‘Humble’; we are given a glimpse into Audrey’s life throughout her personal work. A certain purchase if you enjoy Audrey’s work, or if you like other similarly indie-acoustic artists like The Ember Days, and fellow contemporary artists like Matt Maher, Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin; Fortunate Fall is one of the highlights according to a vast unanimous majority (critics and listeners alike) as we witness a moment of tranquillity, solace, enjoyableness and poignancy delivered through these 11 tracks.