Audrey Assad's Inheritance (An Album Review)

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I was hyped up for Inheritance as soon as Audrey Assad announced that she was starting work on this particular album. This particular album consists of some familiar hymns from both Catholic and Protestant traditions as well as a couple of original tracks. If you’re looking for an album to be your Lent soundtrack, this one (as well as her previous album Fortunate Fall) is it.

Without further ado, a track-by-track review:

1) Ubi Caritas: Many traditional and pre-Vatican 2 Catholics will probably recognize this Latin Hymn. According to Michael Martin of preces-latinae.org:

Ubi Cartitas is taken from the antiphons sung during the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet at the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. As is the entire Mass of the Last Supper, this hymn is intimately connected with the Eucharist, and is thus often used during the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. 

It’s a reverent start to this album. I can imagine a Eucharistic procession done to this song, swinging chausible and all. You can listen to it and read the English translation of the Latin lyrics in the video below.

2) Holy, Holy, Holy: I’m very familiar with this hymn and I was surprised that she cut out the second verse. You know, the one about the saints casting down their golden crowns around the sea? Still, I want to wake up to this song every morning, it’s that awesome.

3) Be Thou My Vision: The melody of this song that sounds like stars sparkling in the twilight. I love the drum beat, too, because it gives a certain gravitas to this uplifting hymn. it sounds like a march or a prayerful walk. The song ends with a beautiful mixing of vocals that sound like the song is being lifted up to Heaven.

4) I Wonder As I Wander: Dear Retreat Friends- We need to use this song the next time we do a Passion Play! The strings are unsettling in the most wonderful way. Towards the end of the song, the piano and strings mix in with the sounds of a thunderstorm. Overall, it’s a dark, Gothic round that’s perfect for listening to after Stations of the Cross or on Good Friday.

5) How Can I Keep From Singing: Audrey Assad said on her website that “I had to make something both bright and dark—colored honestly with my own doubts and weaknesses, so that the Lord who inspired these songs could be even more visible in it.” The past couple songs have embraced the darkness, but this song is a lot more uplifting. Listen to this song and take notes, Christian Pop. Praise and Worship songs can be done without sounding like Top 40 pop or a Nickelback concert. 

6) Oh, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus: Fernando Ortega provides a bit of backing vocals to this soft, beautiful, contemplative song. It’s almost like a two and a half minute long meditation sung with the Sacred Heart of Jesus in mind.

7) Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet: This song goes back to the minor keys and haunting strings from previous tracks. Uses a lot of echos. It’s an eerie, dark and rich round. Do not listen to this song with the lights out. You might get nightmares from all the dark notes.

8) New Every Morning: A new retelling of Genesis, Lamentations, and the Gospel of John. It goes on like Psalm 136 with a lot of repetition, but it’s a wonderful mantra. In this Year of Mercy, we have to remind ourselves as often as possible that God’s mercies are new every morning.

9) It Is Well With My Soul: Where has this song been all my life?! This song is definitely in the running for my favorite track on this album. I wish I grew up hearing this song, singing it in my choir. It’s a wonderful calming melody that I want to listen t0 if ever I fall into anxiety again. It’s awe-inspiring and uplifting, another perfect example of how a praise and worship song can sound without the homogenization of pop music melodies. Give it a listen!

10) Even Unto Death: Audrey Assad wrote this particular song to honor the Christian Martyrs who died at the hands of ISIS. On her tumblr, she said this:

All is not as it seems.

The men wielding the knives (precious also, though they do not know it) are the prisoners of Death.

The twenty one men that they beheaded are miraculously, blessedly free.

This is the Great Paradox of Christianity. “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death.”

I have to believe that these twenty one martyrs are each in the kingdom of Light, interceding for their executioners.

“Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy,” I thought desperately.

I could not help but weep, and hard. But by some small miracle I did not despair.

I only thought “What would I pray, if it were me kneeling on that beach?”

I’m not sure if she meant this intentionally, but the song has a St. Therese feel to it. Saint Therese of Lisieux wasn’t a martyr in the typical sense, but she considered herself one in the way that she lived her life. Listen for yourself by clicking on the video below.

11) Abide With Me: Originally written by Henry Francis Lyle, Audrey Assad gives new life to this Protestant Hymn. It’s a soft, gentle closing song to this album. It’s a calming, grounding track, like a light shining into the dark.

Overall, I highly recommend this album! It’s available on iTunes and Amazon. Click here and say: “Shut up and take my money!”

Interior Redecorating: Advent Reflections Week 1, Day 2

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One of my favorite books growing up was The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. I read that book so often in middle school and high school that I made notes in the margins and the pages are stained from the book getting mixed up with a jello I packed for lunch. In the introduction, Sean lists the first three habits as being a “private victory,” illustrated as the roots of a tall, strong tree. The next three habits were categorized as a”public victory,” illustrated as the trunk and branches of the tree. Finally, the last habit emphasized renewal, shown by a sun and a rain cloud nourishing the tree. In another chapter, Covey quotes the following poem inscribed on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abbey:

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world.

As I grew older and wiser I discovered the world would not change –
So I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country, but it too seemed immovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

And now I realize as I lie on my deathbed, if I had only changed myself first, then by example I might have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement I would then have been able to better my country,

And who knows, I might have even changed the world.

Change starts from the inside and eventually manifests into exterior changes. This applies to Advent as well. While we prepare our houses for Christmas by rearranging the furniture and putting up decorations, let us also redecorate the temples of our souls.

A great way to start is with the daily readings. Audrey Assad gives a testimony to the impact of the daily readings from Mass in this video from Redeemed Online:

If you want to find meditations that go along with the daily Mass readings, check out Blessed is She or subscribe to Magnificat. My mom was lucky enough to find a series of devotionals called Conversations with Jesus at our local used bookstore.

 

LEVV Lights a Strange Fire With Debut Album

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You wanna know why I wonder Audrey Assad gets any sleep? Because she’s always doing something. LEVV is a departure from Audrey Assad’s usual stuff, in the sense that it isn’t Praise and Worship/Gospel/Christian music. But there’s an ethereal quality that still feels like God is a part of this album as much as Audrey’s other stuff.

For those who don’t know LEVV is a band consisting of Audrey Assad and Seth Jones and the music is pop, but there’s so much more depth in these five songs (plus the song “Dream” from the Arrow single) than I’ve heard from anything on the air right now. Audrey goes more into the name of the band on LEVV’s Tumblr page. Without further ado, let the album review begin!

1. Darkness

Darkness sounds like a ballad collaboration between Calvin Harris and Sia. It starts out slow with a piano and lyrics that tell the story of a dark love. The person in the song was fighting against her feelings for someone and yet the lover broke through. It’s a haunting song and you could almost see it as something coming out of a Gothic novel.

2. Heartbreaker

This song is the most “Top 40” sounding song with a catchy beat and easy rhymes. But as I said, most top 40 acts wish they could sound this good. The song speaks of still loving a person even after being rejected. It’s a bit sad underneath the upbeat melody. There’s a wonderful electric guitar bridge and a techno beat that would feel totally in place in the club. Of course, this song isn’t exactly the kind you would dance to at a typical raging nightclub. The song’s more suited to a VIP kind of nightclub on ladies night, more singing and less grinding. Like Bridesmaids.

3. I Feel Good

Once again, lyrical dissonance is at play in this song. The melody is like a sunrise, like the feeling you get when you wake up on a weekend. The lyrics, however, feel like the story of someone struggling with depression. I mean the chorus goes “But I feel good/I feel okay/I’ve got a pill waiting for me at home at the end of the day.” There’s a beautiful piano bridge in this song that transitions into a bridge that speaks of the post-breakup blues. Way to make a misleading title, Audrey!

4. Arrow

“Arrow” was the first single from this album. There isn’t much to this song lyrically and yet I can’t help but think of Eros and Psyche when I listen to this song. The song tells the story of falling in love unexpectedly. There’s a piano melody that plays after the chorus, followed by a cool techno/drum beat as the chorus echoes again and again until the end of the song.

5. Learning to Let Go

The story in this song of two lovers in war with each other for no real reason. The lover in the song is jumping at shadows and the way he’s treating the beloved in this song is making her act like she’s at fault and giving her major relationship issues in the process. The chorus is just one line, but it repeats and overlaps with beautiful vocalizations. The song is a tragically beautiful track and I can definitely relate to.

Bonus: Dream

Dream is a track from the Arrow EP and I’ll be honest when I say that I wish that this song was on the actual “Strange Fire” album because this is the LEVV song I relate to the most. The lyrics tell the story of a broken woman finding love, finding home with someone. The song has a beautiful piano melody that honestly doesn’t feel out of place with the rest of Audrey’s usual music. My favorite lyrics from the song are the chorus:

I would love you with my whole heart if my heart was whole—

as it is I’m all in pieces, and you can have them all.

Strange Fire is available on LEVV’s Bandcamp page for $4.99, but you can get a discount by tweeting about the album on Thunderclap. You can download Dream for free from the Arrow single off of LEVV’s Noisetrade page.

I can’t wait to see what this band will create next. I hope for an album that has at least 10 tracks. And seriously Audrey Assad, GET SOME SLEEP! You’re making the rest of us look unproductive!

Album cover courtesy of Audrey Assad and Seth Jones and is used for editorial purposes only.

Audrey Assad: Women of Christ Wednesday

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Audrey Assad is a worship leader and musician who writes, in her own words, “soundtracks for prayer.” She has penned her contemplative songs of worship with (and for) Matt Maher, Christy Nockels, Brett Younker, Sarah Hart, Meredith Andrews, and others—Audrey’s passion is to write fragrant, prayerful music that truly leads to encountering Jesus Christ, even in the silence of the heart.

The Pledgemusic pre-order for Inheritance is still going! It can be found at http://pledgemusic.com/audreyassad and there are amazing new items in the store, including shirts and posters in partnership with St. Vincent DePaul Society!

 

Where did the idea for Inheritance come from?

I was raised in a church that only sang hymns, a cappella and out of the hymnal. I learned to sing harmony and read music in church, and all these years later I just really wanted to make an album that paid homage to that heritage. The name is a nod to the musical traditions that helped shape my art, as well as the wealth of wisdom the Church has to offer us in the form of hymns.

 

How did you create the band LEVV? ETA on the first album from that band?

LEVV was begun three years ago, and it was initially a solo project—I named it after Leo Tolstoy (Leo is ‘Lev’ in Russian) because reading his work and reading about his life inspired me to make some much-needed changes in my career. After working with Seth Jones (a friend in LA) quite a bit on the music, it became apparent that he was meant to be part of the band, and we made it a partnership.  The album (Strange Fire) releases in September.

 

How do you balance motherhood and your career and your marriage?

Every day and week is different. Some weeks I get more sleep and more coffee time and others, I get less. My son is over a year old now so some of that stuff is a bit easier than it used to be—but then again I have to chase him around all over the house making sure he doesn’t cause too much destruction, so it’s a tradeoff. I work three days a week on emails, admin stuff, and/or writing, so we have a babysitter for two days a week and my husband stays home one day a week to make that possible—I travel 3-4 times a month to play music, and somehow we just kind of make it all work. Teething is always a game-changer. 😉

Tell me about how you met your husband and what it’s like being married now.

I met my husband in Tucson, AZ at a youth conference where we were both working. We stayed friends loosely over Twitter and Facebook for a year, and then started dating after I figured out that he was young, Catholic, artistic, and handsome and I was crazy for not putting myself out there.

Being married is a gauntlet of emotion and selfishness and I am a much better and humbler person for it, but I still have a long way to go. I married someone very different than me, and someone who is also creative—we disagree (strongly) a lot and that is very refining. Love grows well under those circumstances if one keeps remembering to put the other person first, so we are better off for being together and growing in happiness every year.

 
How exactly did you convert into Catholicism?

I started RCIA after a year of personal study — I had been turned on to the Church’s teachings by a young student I met in a coffee shop, and from the first daily Mass I attended I was so intrigued that I had to keep learning. One thing led to another and I found myself entering the Church at Easter Vigil 2007. I am long past the ‘honeymoon phase’ most converts experience and have been down in the mire with everyone else, trying to live a holy life in union with the Church and figure out how to engage culture’s unbelief and my own unbelief in the midst of that. It’s a constant journey. I’m still converting, really.

 

What advice would you give to young adults who are discerning marriage?

Steer clear of extremes. Being extremely uptight about morals and discernment can be dangerous, as can being extremely carefree about them.

 

What advice would you give to those struggling with pornography, male or female?

Visit The Porn Effect for a wealth of helpful resources and ways to stay committed to chastity in this area. Make sure you have friends willing to support and help you—addiction has a much easier time surviving in a vacuum.

 

What’s your opinion on music liturgy?

That’s a big question, with many nuanced answers I could give. A short (and incomplete) opinion I hold is that it is very hard to do modern music tastefully at Mass, but it is possible and I have heard it done. Most of the time, keeping it simple really helps. Guitar and drums are hard to keep in the realm of tasteful (for Mass) so sometimes, something like piano and voice is the better choice.

 

3 Opportunities for Almsgiving

As I was checking my news feed, I saw a lot of fundraisers going on. Since Lent is the time for almsgiving, I want to promote some stuff going on in the hopes that you might donate to them.

 

  1. One of my favorite singers is having another Kickstarter. Except Audrey Assad isn’t promoting an album, but a film she’s scoring and her husband is creating. I owe this to Audrey Assad, since she was my first concert.
  2. My friend Katrina, whom you may know as The Crescat, needs a new car. Dear Guadalupe Radio Network, can you send whatever donated cars you have her way? I hear she likes Mercedes.
  3. Finally, there’s this very obscure web show called Ordinary, which is a video blog about a priest fresh out of seminary and working his first diocesan job. I haven’t finished the first season yet, but what I saw so far was amazing. Not only does it show that priests are people without resorting to my most hated stereotype of priests in the media, but the characters are all people you’ve probably seen at your parish as well, or at least dramatized versions of them.

 

Anyway, as they say, go fund the thing!

O Happy Fault

I can happily say that Audrey Assad was the first artist I ever saw in concert. It was amazing to see her live during her Fortunate Fall tour.

She recently posted on her social media that the short film that she and her husband created can now be viewed on Vimeo. I would do a commentary on said video, but I think it speaks for itself.

 

It’s only up for the week, so watch it while you can!

Lent Day 40: Music for Holy Week

A word of advice from experience. As much as I loved listening to my local Christian Music radio station, the occasional advertisement was always Easter-centric or said the words “He is Risen!” while I shouted: NOT YET!

Sorry, Christian Radio, but you’re kind of jumping the gun along with the rest of America here. The purpose of Lent is to remember the Passion and death of Jesus first. Catholics celebrate Easter for 50 days. There is plenty of time to celebrate, but now’s not the time. It’s like opening Christmas presents a week early!

With that in mind, I’m going to recommend some music to listen to during this week. Today, I want y’all to check out a woman named Audrey Assad and her album Fortunate Fall.

Patheos blogger Marc Barnes wrote what I think is the best recommendation for this album. But given that I’m also an Audrey Assad fan, I’m gonna give my two cents.

This album captures so much of what Lent is and what Lent centers on. The first track recalls the Exsultet, an ancient chant sung during the Easter Vigil. Ever heard of the term “Felix Culpa?” That’s Latin for “fortunate fall.” “O happy fault that gained for us so great a redeemer.” The sin of Adam led to Christ redeeming mankind as a whole, which is reflected upon in the Easter Vigil’s readings.

The second track is “Help My Unbelief.” Taking inspiration from Mark 9:24 and Doubting Thomas’s revelation, the song reflects the mindset of spiritual dryness. In this song, the person is making an effort to be faithful, but is suffering some kind of trial. How often we forget to ask the Lord for His help when we are down.

“Humble” is a song of praise to Jesus for becoming human. So many songs in Christian music speak so much of Jesus’s divinity. How many songs acknowledge His humanity? The song also asks those listening to follow in John the Baptist’s example, to let themselves decrease so that Christ can increase.

“O Happy Fault” is an interlude but worth listening to for the instrumentals and the echos of “Felix Culpa.” It’s almost meditative, recalling the Easter Vigil with gratitude and gravitas.

“Lead Me On” takes inspiration from the uber-famous Psalm 23. Although it’s a structured song (in the whole verse-chorus-verse sense), it continues the theme of gratitude grounded in humility. It’s beautiful in its simplicity, with the imagery of the psalm actually working with the subtle glow of the song. Mark Barnes sings this song’s praises better than I can, tho, so read his article linked above, please!

“I Shall Not Want” takes inspiration from a Catholic prayer called The Litany of Humility. It’s also structured in a verse-chorus-verse style, but the song is carried with just piano, stringed instruments, and backup vocals. Again, there is beauty within the simplicity of this song, which cries out with desire of deliverance from everything the world values most.

“Good to Me” is a song of praise within hard times. Happiness that is surrounded by hardships. More “spiritually high” than “Help My Unbelief,” it recalls some familiar biblical phrases from the Psalms and the Song of Solomon. It captures a martyr’s hope in such a beautiful way.

“Felix Culpa” is another instrumental interlude. It repeats the earlier “O Happy Fault,” but takes on a more joyful tone, like a sunrise on Easter Morning.

“Spirit of The Living God” is a cover of an old hymn, a prayer to the Holy Spirit. So much power behind what I am sure is a song done in a minor key. (I’m not a music major, so please, someone listen to this song and tell me if this was done in a minor key!)

“Lead Kindly Light” is based on a prayer by Cardinal Newman. It’s a prayer of a lost soul trying to find home again. It can also be about a person trying to find his path to whatever God is calling him to do. It’s the story of a journey, of a walk taken in faith and not by sight. The piano and soft vocals reflect the tone of the words. It’s not a grand gesture, like “Amazing Grace,”  but instead a quiet acquiescence to God’s will.

The last song on the album starts in a moment of silence. “You Speak” comes as a “fade to black” ending to this rich album. The chorus of the song echoes Mother Teresa’s famous quote “In the silence of the heart, God speaks.” It builds up to a wonderful crescendo before slowly fading out, like Jesus ascending into Heaven.

Listen to this album. It is awesome.