Track by track: Blessed Assurance, by Nick Fradiani Sr.

For he who sings praise, does not only praise, but also praises joyously;
he who sings praise, is not only singing, but also loving Him whom he is singing about/to/for.
— St. Augustine of Hippo, trans. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Cover of Blessed Assurance EP, showing man with guitar kneeling in front of cross in the sunset
EP cover

These songs are chosen to embrace the listener in an intense emotional experience. While they’re beautifully performed, there’s a strong feel that performance itself is not the point; rather, that the listener is being addressed directly and invited in. Nick Sr.’s vocals both keep him emotionally centered in the song and keep any sense of ego out of the way.Blessed Assurance, a new EP by Nick Fradiani Sr. offers six gently gritty, emotionally honest songs of adoration that emphasize trust in Jesus. The sound is driven by acoustic guitar and piano, with Nick Sr.’s warm tone and exquisite phrasing front and center.

Four songs are covers of contemporary Christian hits; two-and-a-half are based on songs older than all of us; and if that doesn’t seem to add to six, be patient, all will be explained.

Sales of the CD support the Archdiocese of Hartford’s televised daily mass, which reaches out to Connecticutians who, due to age or physical difficulty, cannot go to mass at a local church. You can order it at this link.

O Come to the Altar

From the first acoustic guitar strums, this cover of the recent Elevation Worship hit exude peace and welcome. Nick Sr.’s voice falls over the listener like golden sunlight: his tone sits in this wonderful spot that’s gentle yet has an edge of age and experience to make him trustworthy on matters of feeling broken.

I Can Only Imagine

The magic of this interpretation of the huge MercyMe hit kicks in at the beginning of the chorus. In the original, the first chorus is delivered in the same introspective tone as the first verse. Nick Sr. belts it, with strong reverb, and this is a chillingly beautiful choice that creates a mood of one small person facing the infinite with joy and pride and trepidation. Everything that happens with the instrumentation after that becomes the surrounding glory — this performance of the song very effectively holds in tension the possibilities of dancing in the light and falling down in rapt adoration, in a way that makes every reaction feel possible at once.

Give Me Jesus

Although the origins of this song are a slave spiritual, this version is more nearly related to Jeremy Camp’s folk version. It’s initially sparse and simple, with nothing fancier than layered-up vocals until the sparkling instrumentation picks up on the bridge. I’m inclined to believe that there’s a musical journey here from isolation in the cold gray light of morning to finding community to the gates of heaven opening.

Blessed Assurance

This is roughly what might have happened if Cat Stevens had covered this classic 1873 hymn instead of “Morning Has Broken.” That’s a compliment: the rippling folk instrumentals give a lovely fresh sense of being in tune with the unfolding of nature, supporting a vocal that rises in prayer like the sun coming up.

Finally Make It Home

And this is roughly what might have happened if Glen Campbell had covered the MercyMe hit. That’s a compliment, too: the country feel is sweeter and stronger than in the original, while the vocals combine greater world-weariness and greater hope. The uses of vocal layering to emphasize both awe and commonality are really cool here.

Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)

Hearing the words of “Amazing Grace” in such a subdued form initially surprised me, as I didn’t know about the Chris Tomlin version until now. The opening has that perfect final-track feel of the singer just sitting down at the piano to reflect on what it all means (Billy Joel does this)… and then with the interpolation, there’s such a beautiful sense of confidence to mirror and complete the trepidation of approaching the altar in the first track. Again, listen for the vocal layers — that effect is part of why the songs are so welcoming and embracing.

If you’re wondering what’s up with various instruments, every noise is created by Nick Fradiani Sr. himself. Per the credits on the EP sleeve, sound engineer was Wayne Krasnow at East Haven’s Dreamaker Recording Studio, producer was Fr. John Gatzak.

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