16 January 2006

Music Review: Derek Webb "Mockingbird"

There are a lot of words that come to mind when one considers "Contemporary Christian Music." I can say that it has brought about a revolution in worship music--akin to the other great eras currently enshrined in church hymnals. Much of this is forgetful, but some of these choruses will be sung for generations--and criticized by my great grandchildren for being "for old fogies."

Can you imagine? Just like people a century ago might have said, "There are churches that might sing 'Softly and Tenderly,' but ours isn't one of them!" People a century from now will say, "'We Fall Down?' what kind of a boring song is that?"

One word that is seldom used in connection with contemporary christian music is the word, "progressive." These artists are cris-crossing the country, singing in megachurches, signing albums at the Family Life Store for a white, Republican, SUV-driving public. The songs are upbeat, encouraging--in other words totally devoid of the social responsibility that got thrown out with the bathwater of Christ's gospel as evangelical churches guzzled the snake oil peddled by Right-Wing politicos.

Thankfully there is Derek Webb. I have to say that his last album, "I See Things Upside Down," gave me one of the most mind-blowing moments of 25 years of listening to music. His lyric, "I repent, I repent of America's dream," in the song was so abrasive--so revolutionary--I had to sit down before I could listen to the rest of the song (I Repent).

Now comes "Mockingbird," his latest release on Epic records. Clearly, Webb hasn't let up. Indeed, I saw him in concert last December, when he performed "Rich Young Ruler," a song that berates Christians for trying to ignore poverty while justifying our own excesses. The song begins: "Poverty is so hard to see when it's only on your TV 20 miles across town/ we're all living so good, we've all moved out of Jesus' neighborhood."

In "A King and a Kingdom" he pokes fun at people who try to imagine Jesus as "a white middle-class Republican" before they can begin to imitate Him. It is a pretty funny thought, isn't it?

The CD isn't all heavy-handed preaching. I have to hand it to Derek for writing a song glorifying his wife's kisses, "Please, Before I Go." His wife, Sandra McCracken, is also an acclaimed Christian singer-songwriter.

To be contrary, I could point out that the production on the album is sometimes unpolished, which detracts from some songs, but Webb is on target and on message. While not as mind-blowing and revolutionary as "I See Things Upside Down," "Mockingbird" is a solid and much-anticipated follow-up that I will have in my CD player for weeks.

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