Audrey Assad hit the music scene back in summer 2010, and has left a lasting impression in the ears and hearts of listeners and artists alike. She brought a fresh sound, yet stayed true to her Nashville roots, receiving multiple Dove Award nominations for her work. And she was the first Christian artist ever selected to record iTunes’ Live from SoHo project.
Fans of Assad, needless to say, have been waiting in anticipation for a follow-up album to her debut, The House You’re Building. Well, the wait is over, and it was well worth it—Heart shatters the jinx that many sophomore albums bring.
“It’s so simple,” Assad said in a recent press release, “and yet so beautiful a picture, to know that my life is witnessed in all its frailty and wonder by God—and all of it, even my most secret suffering, matters.”
In that spirit, the album commences with “Blessed Are the Ones.” The soulful singer proclaims that all of humanity has a breaking point that leads them to loneliness and despair. She professes our internal desire for hope and redemption.
Humanity’s desire for hope becomes the fuel for the opening song. Coupled with a high-energy drum backdrop and a racing acoustic guitar, it also sets the tone for an uplifting musical journey.
The musical intensity and redemptive message continue with “Even the Winter.” The song transitions from an acoustic race to an electric guitar-driven anthem that promises an end to the cold days of obscurity. Simple keyboard and drum patterns provide a steady rhythm, as if to assure the listener of God’s provision during times of chaos. Assad’s calming yet punchy voice also adds to this assurance.
Heart’s first single, “Sparrow”—the artist’s rendition of the classic hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”—is a great transition into the slower paced section of the album. The song reminds us that God is watching us, looking out for us and providing opportunities to experience Him in the midst of life’s drama. It reminds us that fear should be the least of our worries, because of Jesus’ work on our lives.
“Breaking You” and “O My Soul” slow the velocity of the opening songs down, and bring out Assad’s country roots, both vocally and musically. But, with a contemporary slant to the Nashville norm, the songs bring freshness to the genre’s traditional style. A delicate piano echoes throughout the tracks, tying them into a seamless knot yet providing enough difference to distinguish the two.
The album begins to pick up toward the end, with songs such as “No Turning Back” and “Wherever You Go.”
Fitting enough, the journey ends with “New Song.” Assad displays her vocal range in a number that ties all the themes together, declaring reclamation of spirit, religion, music and life. The song is accented by the strum of a steady acoustic guitar and the melody of a soothing keyboard. The finale welcomes a driving drum accompaniment at the 4-minute / 30-second mark that ends as quickly as it crept in, leaving the listener with a sense of awe and wonder.
The songs comprising Heart are not conducive to a typical corporate worship experience. However, songs such as “No Turning Back” and “New Song” are great options for worship leaders looking to experiment with a more soulful twist to their Sunday morning services. Regardless of how the album is used, Audrey Assad offers a musical journey that more than exceeds expectations and surpasses the amazing offerings of her first release.
Reviewed by: Derrick Engoy, creative arts pastor at New Life Center (Harbor City Foursquare Church) in Harbor City, Calif.