For an artist who’s been celebrated for her keen musicianship and stirring songwriting over the course of her career, a hymns record might seem an odd choice. Yet, for Audrey Assad, hymns speak to a place deep within her and her faith journey and she unashamedly tackles these classic musical traditions with her signature artistry, offering up a collection that honors the legacy of these songs while infusing herself into each and every note. The result is Inheritance, one of the year’s first ‘must listen’ albums.
Assad, with the assistance of co-producer Daniel James (Joy Williams, Canon Blue), infuses Inheritance with a sound that is at once lush and full of space. Almost cinematic in its sonic scope, the record finds the artist playing with rich, layered instrumentation and alternate moments of stark simplicity, each of which highlights her stellar vocal performance as she delivers these familiar hymns with beautiful passion.
“Ubi Caritas” leads things off in fine fashion, the melody hauntingly beautiful while subtle orchestration frames Assad’s crystal clear vocal, almost recalling the sounds of Clannad. A compelling backbeat and warm arrangement color Assad’s take on “Holy, Holy, Holy” while “Be Thou My Vision” ripples with the lush glory of a movie soundtrack, Assad’s vocal clear and resonant throughout.
Normally known for its Christmas appeal, “I Wonder As I Wander” shines brightly here, the moody melody captivating with a backing of soulful strings as Assad’s vocal delivers with a haunting flair, the longing in her voice speaking straight to the soul. “How Can I Keep From Singing” is a warm, earnest moment of praise delivered simply that opens the way for the stirring harmonies of “Oh, The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” and it’s piano-driven arrangement. That’s followed by one of the most underrated tracks in the Christian hymn canon, “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” and Assad gives it a fair shake. Surrounded by a pleasantly dissonant contradiction of sounds, booming percussion and building swells of strings, Assad’s ethereal vocal delivers the powerful refrain through and through and make this track another big highlight.
Simplicity is the key to Assad’s take on “It Is Well With My Soul,” allowing a stark piano backing to carry the melody while Assad’s vocals deliver with raw emotion, enhanced by a communal choir on the chorus that brings that extra something. Album closer “Abide With Me” delivers as well, allowing the cinematic scope of the music to propel the lyrics further than they’ve ever been and making this the perfect closer.
Also present are two Assad originals which, to the artist’s credit, blend in perfectly with these time honored tracks. “New Every Morning” showcases a solid blend of old meets new, Assad merging rich lyricism with a contemporary flavored arrangement that makes the perfect recipe for a worship anthem as she sings the refrain, “Your mercies are new, new every morning.” No less powerful is her other original, “Even Unto Death.” Inspired by a new story regarding another martyrdom in the Middle East and co-written with Matt Maher, it ripples with humble need and celebratory praise.
Audrey Assad’s Inheritance is the kind of album that demands listen after listen. Packed with incredible songs, old and new, Assad channels the heart of these lyrics into modern interpretations that speak to the soul and should have this record on the best of lists come December.