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Inspired Christian rock weaves through Webb’s latest

Dan Moore | Thursday, April 6, 2006

Derek Webb, critically acclaimed former member of Caedmon’s Call, has released a third solo album that is raising eyebrows, pricking ears and snapping fingers – and not just because of its catchy, rhythmic melodies.

Webb has been known for a few years now as an artist who is unafraid to proclaim messages that make people feel rather uncomfortable, and his new album, “Mockingbird,” is certainly no exception.

With tracks that emphasize such topics as social justice, politics and Christian responsibility, “Mockingbird” continues the message of Webb’s other albums, “She Must and Shall Go Free” and “I See Things Upside Down” – which call the Church to be what it is meant to be: Christ’s body in the world.

Webb wrote one of the tracks on the album with the help of his wife, Sandra McCracken, his fellow singer and songwriter who also plays guitar on a number of songs.

Webb hails from the band Caedmon’s Call, with whom he performed and wrote music for 10 years. The band, formed in 1993, is known for its strong, catchy acoustic folk and alternative rock, as well as its brilliant and unashamed lyrics.

To a greater extent, the messages on Derek Webb’s new solo album are not usually what people are listening for and can be touchy. Webb deals with war, poverty and loving our enemies, among a variety of other things. But Webb declares that his aim is not to please people, and that he doesn’t care about reputation.

The opening title track, “Mockingbird,” declares, “I’ve got no new song to sing,” and “I just tell you what I’ve heard,” and then the rest of the album goes on to echo an old message: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Songs such as “A King and a Kingdom” declare that our first allegiance should not be to a flag, a country or a man, but to a King and a Kingdom. “A New Law” convicts people of ignoring what is uncomfortable to think about and to act upon.

The album’s music ranges from rock to folk, incorporating some interesting brass, strings and experimental sounds. The resulting sound is very emotional, driving and often haunting, but always catchy.

Mostly featuring rhythmic acoustic guitar and piano, Derek Webb showcases his unique voice (which often mirrors his lyrics in its edginess) with clear, intelligible lines. It’s convenient since the album unfortunately lacks lyrics in its insert.

In “A New Law” and “Mockingbird,” the guitars strum energetically to mellow piano riffs, driving these upbeat songs from start to finish as a cello and French horn punctuate the music at intense moments. Trumpets and horns also support the love songs “I Hate Everything (But You)” and “Please, Before I Go.” (In an interview with Christianity Today, Webb said, “Why let MTV or the media have the only word [on sexuality]? Why can’t we have something to say about it as well?”) Slower ballad tracks like “Rich Young Ruler” and “Love Is not Against the Law” incorporate bells and strings for additional depth and richness.

Derek Webb is a refreshing taste of clarity and conviction in a business of lukewarm and self-centered music, and his undeniably appealing melodies will keep “Mockingbird’s” challenging lyrics bouncing around in your head all day.