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Music Review: Evergreen by Audrey Assad

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September 12, 2018
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"Wounded Healer" by Audrey Assad - Lyric Video
"When I See You" by Audrey Assad - Lyric Video
"Deliverer" by Audrey Assad - Lyric Video

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£7.99 (Amazon)

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Sometimes the most compelling art and spiritually-nourishing songwriting comes after a challenging season, though in the case of consistently thought-provoking troubadour Audrey Assad, it appeared after a gut-wrenching deconstruction of her fundamentalist faith foundation, alongside crippling battles against anxiety. In fact, it was that very maze of emotions, coupled with the inability to write worship songs she felt were genuinely authentic, that resulted in the four years between her last original album and the immensely awaited Evergreen (Fortunate Fall Records/Tone Tree Music), which besides chronicling the no-holds-barred transparency of her struggles, buds with rebirth and hope.

At the dawn of 2018 with so much turmoil behind her, Assad is finally ready to unleash Evergreen to the world at large. And considering the multiple Dove Award nominee’s string of critically-lauded albums, collaborating with Chris Tomlin, writing for Christy Nockels, Matt Maher, Meredith Andrews and many others, plus tours alongside Jars Of Clay, Tenth Avenue North and tons more, it’s being met with tremendous anticipation, especially when it comes to her current creative path.

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Evergreen by Audrey Assad
(Updated: September 13, 2018)
Overall rating 
 
9.9
Vocals 
 
10.0
Lyrics 
 
10.0
Originality 
 
9.0
Value 
 
10.0
Personal Rating 
 
10.0

2 years ago Audrey released an album called "Inheritance" and it was largely the songs that have influenced her from her past and present. That past was in the very formal Plymouth Brethren denomination, and her present is within the Roman Catholic tradition. As you can read above, her latest album comes from the journey of struggling with the fundamentalism of her upbringing as well as other anxieties. So you get the impression straight away that this is not going to be a straightforward worship album and the expectation is for something deeper and more personal. It is a brave person who can take their worldview and examine it critically and work out what still fits and what doesn't, for Audrey it brought her to a barren place where she couldn't see or feel the evidence of God and prayers became just occasional journal entries. This is the basis for "Evergreen".

The title of the album is from the first song which opens with the stark "God on a cross - who would have thought it? This place looks nothing like Eden." yet the haunting vocals bring an element of life to this desolate scene, with doubts turning into wonder, rivers flowing in the desert and an 'ever green' tree of life. "Deliverer" is breaking down the way that we view God's control over us as followers and worshippers, some of the dogma of the evangelical church tries to balance God's sovereignty with our freedom of choice, here the emphasis is on God's nature of love, freedom and mercy that God shows. I love the line "In the ruins of my heart, You preach to the poor" God isn't demanding anything but patiently showing us that there is more that we can be and accomplish with our freedom. "Little Things With Great Love" takes a look at the faithfulness of God to His people and His creation and then turns this around to us, we are meant to be God's hands and feet in this world, so the responsibility is for us to do the little things with great love. Such a sensitively written piece which should spur us to the actions that we can do.

Life isn't all mountain top experiences, there is sorrow, hardship and valleys and "Joy of the Lord" is about how we get through the refining fires of life, it's about looking to God at every moment. "The Joy of the Lord is your strength" comes from a passage in Nehemiah when the people were reminded of the law and how far they had fallen from it. This song encourages us that as we move through this life we are pressed but not broken, and we need to remember the Joy of the Lord, not in a fake happiness,  but it is our core, our strength. Sometimes songs just scratch the surface of the Bible, referring to a psalm or a New Testament passage, others go deeper, sometimes taking something more profound and that is what Audrey does in this track and in "River". As the vocals cascade the song talks about seeking to do right, that justice will roll like a river for those who need justice. That justice may not be found in the courts and the prisons, that justice is that of the Lord, and those that would seek to do his work for those who have no voice. Taking the phrase from Amos' lament about the state of the people and the meaningless worship, justice will roll like a river and God's justice will be served.

It doesn't take a genius to see that Audrey's confusion and faith doubts are sewn into the next track on the album. In "Unfolding" she talks about the difficulty of letting go of what she has always known, trying to work out what has value, and questioning herself if she is leading herself astray as a "wolf in sheep's clothing" or whether she is actually the lost lamb. For anyone who has made any steps away from the ultra-fundamentalist movements in Christianity then they should be able to identify with this song. There are no prizes for guessing the inspiration behind the track "Teresa", amazingly this song was written in 2009 but hasn't seen the light of day until this album. With Mother Teresa as the inspiration it also became something that Audrey identified with more through the last few years. Like all these songs it's brilliantly expressed and wonderfully clear. "Irrational Season" is a song about the times when the next steps don't seem clear and nothing in life seems to make sense. "Wounded Healer" is a beautiful expression of the cross and it's saving power in our lives and is just another brilliantly crafted song.

The balance between God's love and our fear is examined in the track "When I See You". Despite God's love for us we cannot see beyond ourselves, our fears hold us back from committing more to God's love because we have been hurt before. Then when we see God in our lives we cannot help but be drawn to Him, wanting to know more. The immense freedom and love undoes the fear that binds us and nothing can stand in the way of God's love being revealed fully in our lives. It's a similar story in "Drawn To You" which just looks at God's comforting presence with us, saying "After everything I’ve had / After everything I’ve lost / Lord, I know this much is true / I’m still drawn to you." Sandwiched between these two very emotive and expressive tracks is "Immanuel's Land" which is adapted from the old hymn, "The Sands of Time Are Sinking" by Anne R. Cousin. As a hymn-lover this brought back a hymn that I haven't really heard of, or thought about, for quite some time, and I love the pictures that are in this song, especially the last verse which talks about a bride not looking at her dress but the face of her beloved and in the same way we need to focus not on what God gives us, but what it cost Him.

With the purity of Audrey's vocals through this album it is very easy just to concentrate on the words and thoughts behind each song. You barely notice the music which underlies each song, but there are some great blends of instruments here that really work well with Audrey's voice. This album has a great depth and gracefully pours out those wonders, fears, hurts, doubts, and more and brings you through some of this emotional journey along with the artist. This album speaks to me as someone who has moved from a very fundamental background to a more open form of worship and meeting, I have not felt the need to re-examine my worldview in the way that Audrey has, but I definitely respect her for the truth and honesty, not to mention courage, that it has taken to do so!

RA

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