Audrey Assad

Heart

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Channeling the classic singer/songwriter pop of the '70s and the introspective coffeehouse fare of the mid-'90s, contemporary Christian vocalist Audrey Assad's second album, Heart, is a much more organic affair than her Dove Award-nominated debut. Its 12 tracks may share the same producer as 2010's The House You're Building in the shape of Marshall Altman (Natasha Bedingfield, Kate Voegele), but other than the driving soft rock of "Even the Winter" and "Won Me Over," and the quirky synths on "No Turning Back," the New Jersey native adopts a gorgeously understated and stripped-back approach that allows her fragile ethereal vocals to take center stage, whether it's the warm Carole King-inspired soul-pop of "The Way You Move," the piano-led melancholy of "Lament," or the slow-burning torch song "O My Soul." The skittering percussion on opener "Blessed Are the Ones," an honest look at the challenges of newlywed life, and the harmony-laden "Wherever You Go" helps to provide a bit of backbone to the delicate acoustics, as does the brave cover of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," which turns the gospel hymn into a Sarah McLachlan-esque slice of dreamy pop. And while a series of unremarkable ballads toward the end sees Assad drift into autopilot, the appropriately titled Heart is, on the whole, an impassioned and sincere affair worthy of joining recent efforts from Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles in the same new Lilith Fair stable.

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