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Spiritual Shelter
Posted February 06, 2018
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer

Audrey Assad has long brought something unique and crucial to the table of faith-based art. From her major label days of sparkling pop-centric art to her steady shift towards the liturgical and one of the most poignant hymns albums in recent musical history (Inheritance), Audrey has infused thoughtful theology and practiced artistry into each song she has crafted. Those elements are present in their fullest form yet with Evergreen, her new independent full length album. 

In Evergreen, you'll find a sonic landscape close to what developed on Inheritance. The musical brush strokes are subtle, layering piano, occasional strings and Celtic influences underneath the clearly delineated centerpiece of Audrey's ethereal vocals. Lead single "Deliverer" is likely the most fully produced offering here, soaring through its glad declarations of freedom from our own misconceptions about God. "Wounded Healer" is equally upbeat and full as it ventures towards folk influences built around Christocentric lyrics. 

Several piercing piano ballads trace out the other side of this album's terrain. "Unfolding" begins to reveal to us the Evergreen dichotomy: celebration and lament, joy and grief, the difficulty of finding deeper faith through unlearning certainty. "Unfolding" is a song haunted by self and by potentials unmet, pleading "am I the child of Your love or just chaos unfolding?" The most emotionally devastating prayer comes in "Teresa," a song that echoes the deep loneliness and spiritual isolation Mother Teresa felt for the majority of her years of service in Calcutta. From the first lines, the song is soul-piercing: "Jesus, I need you; lover, don't leave / Did you call my name just to plunge me deep into the darkness?"

"Little Things With Great Love" responds to the overwhelming grief, both personal and global, that marks some of the other songs. Audrey has been vocal in engaging the current refugee crisis in particular, and here she sings a reminder into the paralysis that can result from taking in so much pain: "this You have asked of us: do little things with great love." "River" expands on the concept, tackling the often misperceived concept of God's justice by drawing on the language of the Old Testament prophets to declare justice for the marginalized. Propaganda's exceptional feature on the bridge feels particularly appropriate given his own extensive exploration of those concepts.

Trying to process all of the themes on Evergreen feels a little like excavating gems from marble: the treasures are deep and manifold, but even the process of handling such a quality encasement for them is a pleasure in and of itself. Title track "Evergreen" and later cut "Irrational Season" both capture the wonder of a faith that has moved beyond a need for rightness and reason and simply encounters God. "When I See You" is movingly reverent worship in response to that encounter. All of it is summarized by the closing track "Drawn to You," which surveys the landscape of spiritual mountains and valleys and confesses "After everything I've had, after everything I've lost / Lord, I know this much is true: I'm still drawn to You."

The Bottom Line: If you are a mourner, a worshipper, a skeptic or in any desperate want of spiritual shelter, Evergreen will feel like home to you. Musically, the piano and vocal centered sound excels at demonstrating skillful restraint in an era of musical excess. Lyrically, Audrey Assad provides soul language for both lament and redemptive celebration, often in the same breath. Evergreen will be one of the richest musical experiences of the year.

For Fans Of: Christa Wells, Nichole Nordeman, John Mark McMillan, Ellie Holcomb

Song to Download Now:
"Drawn to You" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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