Named after a tree that remains green in every season, Audrey Assad’s latest album Evergreen is her first recording of completely original music since 2014’s Fortunate Fall. And as you listen to the record, it’s evident it was not created without the singer weathering some storms.
The title track, “Evergreen,” makes this clear, when clear vocals immediately state, “God on a cross who would have thought. This place looks nothing like Eden.”
Piano is the foundation, giving Audrey’s vocals the chance to fly as she delicately unravels the transformation that happens within us when our constructs of religion and life are torn down and God turns doubt into wonder.
“Deliverer,” exercises more track and synth, giving it a slightly more radio friendly vibe as Audrey declares the character of God. Wispy, ethereal tones come into her voice as she declares statements like, “You are not invasive, you have no envy,” and this comes to the fore in the chorus with the repetition of the words, “You’re my Deliverer.”
The nuanced mix between piano, vocals and electronic track is stunning, and come together to communicate a vulnerability as Audrey struggles to believe—yet can’t help but hold to the truth of—the statements she sings.
Woodwind instruments add a level of complexity to the introduction of “Little Things With Great Love,” and we are given one of the most hymn-like ballads of Evergreen. A sombre recollection about how sacred pain is to God, the chorus is a dream-like note to the listener, reminding us to act with compassion and mercy like Christ.
The power of “Joy In The Lord,” is the very innate sense that Audrey is singing about her deepest trials. Weaving scripture into the lyrics, such as “I’m pressed but not crushed, for you are making new wine,” they lose their religiosity and become so personal you nearly feel like it’s costing Audrey something to share them with you.
Propaganda joins Audrey on the evocative pop/liturgical piece, “River.” Scripture forms the basis of the lyrics, and synth and electronic tracks adds intensity to God’s command to let justice “roll like a river” in our lives and the world around us. Propaganda’s rap is nothing less than spine tingling, and this is a standout on an already impeccable album.
Everything is stripped back for “Unfolding,” in a raw and honest take on the loss of faith. Simple piano gives Audrey the platform to cry out to God as she questions if she is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” It will provide a moment of deep resonance for many people who have wrestled with faith, or walked away for fundamentalism. For as pure and simple as it is, there is a sense of utter holiness in the chords and you will become lost in them.
The ballad “Teresa,” keeps this same tone, but frames it in the form of a prayer to a God who seems to have “been hiding.” And “Irrational Season,” returns to a hymn-like methodology, where Audrey creates beauty out of the very same chaos and pain she has just sung about. Bass keys are implemented as the song continues, communicating an increase of faith and courage as God inexplicably arrives in the midst of crisis.
Bagpipes add a touch of Celtic folk charm to “Wounded Healer,” and we see Audrey reacquainted with the God she has previously struggled to sense. The tenacity of Audrey’s vocals is especially apparent in the chorus, where they act as the instrument communicating the simple, yet holy title of, “Wounded healer,” and welcoming us home to bring God our devotion.
The opening chords of “When I See You,” sound like an early 90s pop ballad from Amy Grant, but Audrey laces her unique stamp on the chorus with her mix of minor and major chords, and her ability to go easily between falsetto and full voice.
“Immanuel’s Land,” finally introduces strings to the record, and we are reminded just how exquisite Audrey is at delivering liturgical worship. Clear and profound truths about God’s character and acts come together in a song about Christ’s coming kingdom, and you are left reminded how beloved you are by God.
Finishing the record with the piano based “Drawn To You,” we are left with a statement about Audrey’s own faith journey, and indeed, the story of Evergreen.
For all the doubt, grief, loss and pain expressed in these tracks where “devotion is like sinking sand,” God is our rescue, and shows He is beyond our own constructs and religious conventions. It is stripped back, and delivered with honesty and integrity, so you feel like you’ve seen a side of Audrey usually reserved for the Divine.
Forget CCM, Evergreen is a rarity in the music industry full stop. Audrey’s decision to pour her doubt, pain and devotion into these songs gives us access to a messy yet beautiful journey of faith. Pure, elegant and unhindered, this record will give voice to the doubts and fears many of us struggle to comprehend.