I’ve been a fan for many years and met her in a studio in Nashville in 2012 where she was working on her cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”.
The first song of hers I fell in love with was “Restless” which borrows its chorus from Augustine’s famous quote although I was unaware of its origin when I first heard the song:
“You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.”
Audrey’s ability to take ancient texts and set them to heart breaking pop melodies has continued on every record since.
Over the last few years at Forefront Brooklyn we’ve been singing “I Shall Not Want” which takes inspiration from the Catholic Litany of Humility. As a slowly recovering co-dependent people pleaser this is a particularly difficult prayer for me to pray:
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each line)
That others may be esteemed more than I ,
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
What I find compelling is her effortless, perfect voice though it carries a note of fragility and the way this collides with lyrics about our shared brokenness and humanity delivers chills. Recently I pulled out “Blessed Are The Ones” because we were in a series about the Beatitudes and learning how this upside down blessing from Jesus (Greek: Markarios) means that we are already swimming in a world full of God’s blessing and we just need to wake up to it. I love how the lyric of this song invokes our doubt and reminds us that God blesses even those of us who don’t have it figured out (which is all of us).
I’ve been particularly fascinated about her conversion to Catholicism and recently learned, via Our Catholic Way, that she was raised in the Plymouth Brethren church. On every recent record you can see her love for her Catholic faith and I love how she uses Latin to evoke beautiful ancient truths. I’m eternally grateful for the gift of the phrase “O Felix Culpa” which loosely translates to:
O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer.
I have struggled with the church’s idea of sin for most of my life and this phrase has helped me to understand that God is not mad when I fall over and skin my knee. My falling, my failing, my weakness, my humanity is not offensive to God. God is not scared of our dust, of our doubts, of our “darkness”. It is precisely the collision of the human & the divine, the wrestling with God, our searching and stumbling that is the entire point. It is our joy. It is also God’s joy.
Interesting piece of trivia: “Fortunate Fall” is Audrey Assad’s record label with she co-owns with her husband.
So thats a fairly comprehensive list of the things I love about Audrey’s music. I could also talk about her incredible vulnerability, especially on social media, or the rich thread about death that runs through her work but I want to talk briefly about her new record “Inheritance” which is still new to me.
I was surprised to hear a lot of English and Irish hymn melodies which were actually familiar to me. On the podcast Audrey explains that she’s a self confessed Anglophile and that there’s something in the ache of Celtic tunes that speaks to her soul.
The record brings together all of Audrey’s signatures from the Latin on the opening track “Ubi Caritas” which translates as “Where true charity is, there is God” to “Even Unto Death”, a song that honours the 21 Coptic martyrs in Libya. Fittingly the record closes with the beloved funeral hymn “Abide With Me”, which acts as a benediction, and has been a favourite tune of mine from childhood.
You can pray through the whole record with beautifully produced lyric videos here:
I hope you enjoy the new record and the podcast with Audrey!