If you’re a true DW fanboy/girl, you’ve probably already read my review for ex-fans. If not, you can read it later. Let’s talk to the nuts like me who still wonder about Solomon Mente and think about MLK Jr. when they listen to “Jena and Jimmy.” Here’s what you need to know about this record before you buy the highest tier preorder tomorrow, so you can set your I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You coffee mug next to your Ringing Bell graphic novel.
Musically, this album is an absolute treat, because it really feels like a retrospective of all his post-Caedmon’s work…well, that is, if he’s not in Caedmon’s anymore…but that’s another conversation. I’ve found myself constantly thinking things like, “Man, ‘Closer Than You Think’ really would have fit on The Ringing Bell” or “Did he write ‘Lover Part 3’ for I See Things Upside Down?” Of course, Derek has already said that “Heavy” is intentionally reminiscent of “Wedding Dress.” I could keep doing this all day. If you like any or all of his albums musically, you’ll find something to love here. Probably the least represented album musically would be Stockholm Syndrome, but you can find traces in programmed drums and some nasty bass lines.
Lyrically, this album is a sequel to She Must and Shall Go Free [SMASGF], including old hymns with new music (“Thy Will Be Done”), new hymns with traditional music (“I Measure The Days”), intentionally theological songs (“Lover Part 3”), and really sweet love songs that I assume were written for Sandra (“The Vow”). Every song on this album is excellent from a lyrical standpoint, though a couple take some digging to process. Of course, we expect that from DW.
I’m picky about this, since “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” taught me that there must be a coherent logic to any good album. Here’s what I’m seeing in this record:
“I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You” and “Eye of the Hurricane” – Derek tells you the basic premise of the whole record, trying to rebuild his relationship with Christians who have been alienated by past albums
Track 3: Lover Part 3
The theological basis for this record (and frankly, every record he’s ever written)
Track 4: Closer
The necessary response to Lover Part 3, a reminder that the Gospel not only binds us to the Father, but also to one another in Christ. This track seems to wrap up the “family business” of restoration on the album.
These songs, flowing from tracks 1-4, are all about reconciled family members sitting down and talking about the Church again, like they did on SMASGF.
These songs were an unexpected turn for me, because they got really intensely personal. It was almost uncomfortable to get this sort of glimpse into Derek’s personal life. But frankly, it’s songs like these that make it a real Derek Webb album. Sometimes it’s not the theology or the music, it’s the raw honesty–the laying bare of a person’s soul that really strikes hardest:
“Nothing But Love” – a painfully beautiful breakup song that seems to be about leaving
“The Vow” – a repentant romance song? Or is it a romantic repentance? I’m not sure. Derek and Sandra sound like Johnny and June on this one. Really great.
“Your Heart Breaks In All the Right Places” – I really can’t describe this, except as a
remarkably transparent psalm. Just gorgeous.
“Thy Will Be Done” – a musical redoing of Derek’s song from the last Indelible Grace record. Every time I sing this, I feel both terrified and relieved by its honesty.
So that’s enough for now. I’ve had the record for two weeks and just checked on iTunes, which informs me I’ve listened to it 15 times. The standard for fanboy status has been set. Ready, set, GO! And, because I know you want to hear some of the songs, go read this other review now…