Audrey Assad has captivated listeners with albums For Love of You and Heart (read the review here). Her music has gathered overwhelming praise from both critics and fans. When her recording contract ended, and with the belief and donations of her fans, Assad launched her new independent release, Fortunate Fall.
The album is quite a departure from her previous major label releases, enough to certainly catch listeners off guard if they're expecting a conventional follow up to the hugely successful Heart. Right from the start, it's clear this is not a repeat of Assad’s previous work. Haunting layers of sound and vocals repeating a chant-like refrain set the tone for the whole record. Rather than the big anthem approach of much of today’s worship music, Fortunate Fall slowly unfurls in meditative movements of song and poetry.
In recognising her gift for leading worship, Assad declared her desire to make sacred music to serve the needs of the Church. In a climate where making a worship album might be regarded as a marketing move, Fortunate Fall happily succeeds as a beautiful and accessible gift of love.
Sometimes God has to remove from us some of his gifts so that we may hunger for the Giver. This is the theme behind this album. The title track ‘Fortunate Fall’ is the English translation of the Latin phrase ‘felix culpa’, a theological concept birthed through the teachings of St. Augustine. It simply affirms that sometimes God allows us to suffer so he can bring forth beauty and goodness out of our struggle.
This teaching has been worked into the liturgy of the Catholic Church. The phrase ‘felix culpa’ is part of the lyric of the Exsulter sung normally at the Easter Vigil. Born into a Plymouth Brethren household and now an evangelical Roman Catholic, Assad has taken this heritage and interwoven it seamlessly into this new work. Her literary allusions and nods to the Catholic tradition are flawless, and create something entirely accessible to any denomination and faith background
Assad has a gift for moving into our hearts with her music. Consequently, Fortunate Fall’s songs are all finely crafted, with ‘Help My Unbelief’ and ‘You Speak ‘especially good. The real standout is the poignant ‘I Shall Not Want’, a stunning centrepiece that blends elements of ancient prayer with thoroughly relatable longings. (‘From the need to be understood / From the need to be accepted / From the fear of being lonely / Deliver me, O God …’)
Fulfilling the definition of a worship album, but thankfully without succumbing to a tired generic stereotype, Fortunate Fall takes believers down the beautiful path of wrestling with truth and then wonderfully surrendering to it. This is music for those weary of wasted words and tired melodies. Here, rendered and delivered are the very prayers of our fragile hearts.
Fortunate Fall reveals Assad as an artist willing to continually stretch herself, and in the process, she has outdone herself again. A superb companion to liturgy, personal devotion, and corporate worship of many kinds, this album is ambitious, beautiful and easily one of the most unique efforts this year. Fortunate Fall is quite simply not to be missed.
Review by Martin Barratt
I Shall Not Want from the album Fortunate Fall