Christian Music That Doesn’t Suck # 8

You know…when I first heard the band Caedmon’s Call…I thought, “Weird name. Okay music.” I kind of lost interest when their lyrics got to into the whole Calvinism aspect of Christianity. Or maybe it was just a perception gained from reading several interviews where they brought it up. But little did I know they were going to bring about an artist that I find incredibly appealing. I am not alone in this either. webb manWhile Derek Webb has not found sales success like he had with Caedmon’s Call, he has gained a fan base with some unlikely supporters (one of his biggest promoters was television writer Allan Heinberg, writer of the O.C., Grey’s Anatomy, Gilmore Girls among others).

I first heard Derek’s solo material on a mix my friend Peter gave me. He had included Webb’s Love Is Not the Law. I was instantly intrigued by the opening lines:

politics or love
can make you blind or make you see
make you a slave or make you free
but only one does it all

I wanted to hear more. I soon discovered songs like I Repent, which laments a pursuit of the American Dream. This is just not common for Christians in the U.S. to write about. In the past, the only criticisms offered were of abortion, homosexuality, promiscuous hetero sex and porn. Oh, that and immoral Hollywood. Outside of that, there was never much cultural criticism, and it was all Rah Rah, America Rulez! type of stuff. Not Derek…he was seeing an insidious drug in the things Christians don’t think twice about:

I repent, i repent of my pursuit of america’s dream
i repent, i repent of living like i deserve anything
of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife
in our suburb where we’re safe and white
i am wrong and of these things i repent

i repent, i repent of parading my liberty
i repent. i repent of paying for what i get for free
and for the way i believe that i am living right
by trading sins for others that are easier to hide
i am wrong and of these things i repent

Jumpin’ Jeremiah Wright, people! Challenging, inspiring and uncomfortable in one fell swoop. I was stunned. Derek just did not seem to concerned if people might get offended. He was speaking his convictions. But that wasn’t all. Derek worked to inspire. To lift people up. In the chorus of Strong, the Tempted and the Weak, Webb sings:

its bonds shall never break
though earth’s old columns bow
the strong, the tempted, & the weak
are one in Jesus now

Unifying the entirety of the Christianity community in all their stages. But again, all is not high minded theological wanderings, there is also the occasional love song, such as I hate Everything (But You).

Musically, Webb is very folk based. According to his Myspace page his influences include Johnny Cash, U2, Indigo Girls, Pedro the Lion, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Eliot Smith. And it shows. His voice is sometimes shaky, and yet confident at the same time. It’s not a surprise that his fan base is fervent, as he manages present solid works. It is not that there are no mis-steps, it’s just that his strong works overshadow his stumbles.

Webb has a new disc out titled the Ringing Bell and a new EP coming out at the end of April with his wife Sandra McKracken called the Ampersand EP.

I declare Derek Webb as a musician who makes Christian music that does not suck.


3 thoughts on “Christian Music That Doesn’t Suck # 8 Leave a comment

  1. I’m a regular poster at Derek’s message board, whose community I greatly enjoy and learn from. The Ringing Bell has more good and thoughtful lyrics. Its music is more Beatles/Tom Petty influenced than the folk rock on the also-good Mockingbird album that preceded it.

  2. That’s true. I really like the Ringing Bell so far. But it is definitely got more electric than his previous solo releases, and a bit less folk.

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