What happened to the old Derek Webb?


It’s odd that I’m writing this album review for Webb’s I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You to those of you who used to be fans of Derek Webb, because I owe my fandom to you, the old-school Caedmons-era Webb fans…  I first heard of Derek Webb when his first solo album was released.  Little did I know, he was “that guy” from “that band” that was cool with college kids when I was in high school.  Many of you made me aware of this fact and I was quickly introduced to Caedmon’s Call, which didn’t seem radically different from She Must and Shall Go Free [SMASGF], either lyrically or musically.

But then I See Things Upside Down came out.  What the heck happened to the folk singer?  Still, songs like “Ballad in Plain Red,” “I Repent,” and “T-Shirts” really felt like that guy from SMASGF.  So I kept listening.  Soon, I learned about this band called Wilco and I received the musical grid within which to process the album.  Well, that process of musical adjustment continued for me through all of his albums (except The Ringing Bell, because Beatlemania is alive and well in my heart).  But even more than that, I had to learn to listen with an open ear, often enduring comments with which I was pretty uncomfortable.  I know many of you stopped buying his records around the time of Mockingbird and Stockholm Syndrome, because you felt he had become too liberal in his leanings.

If you’re one of those folks who misses the “old” Derek Webb, you’ll be excited to hear his new album.  Three reasons you’ll love this album:

Reason #1: He admits he was wrong.  Well, not that way.  As I’ve listened to this album for the last two weeks, I hear a real sense of regret for the level of alienation that has occurred in Derek’s relationship with fans like yourself.  I certainly don’t think he regrets the content of this previous records, he simply regrets losing that sense of home within the broader Church.  And if he is culpable for driving you away unfairly, he wants to make amends.  A few lyrics to illustrate:

I loved every circle that I ran around my Father’s house.
Even prodigals have a good time till the money runs out.
Oh, I always had a choice, I always knew where I was from,
But there’s a time to stop running and I’m pretty sure that time has come.

‘Cause now I need a home-cooked meal and a bed.
I need a place to lay my head.

This album is Derek trying to make up with you.  As your friend, I encourage you to give him a chance.

Reason #2: Theologically, he’s revisiting the same themes as SMASGF.  While tracks 1, 2, and 4 seem very self-referential, relating to himself and his fans (or ex-fans), tracks 3, 5-12 seem like the sequel to SMASGF.  In fact, Derek has stated that “Heavy” was an attempt at writing “Wedding Dress” in his current stage of life.  One of my favorite tracks is “Everything Will Change,” a reflection on the restoration of the cosmos upon the return of Christ:

Everything Will Change on Youtube

Reason #3: Stylistically, he is returning to his “Old Derek Webb” roots.  While the music on this record feels like an amalgamation of everything he’s done (with a strong nod to U2 and Magical Mystery Tour), his lyrics really reminded me of old school Webb songwriting.  I mean that raw emotive tone that I remember feeling upon listening to “Table for Two” or “Mistake Of My Life.”  Listen to this clip from his breakup song, “Nothing But Love,” for a hint of what I’m talking about…

In sum, if you’re a fan of the Old Derek Webb, I think he’s trying to tell you he’s still the same old guy.  In fact, you might agree more than you thought you did (see the song, “Closer Than You Think”).  Presale with immediate download starts tomorrow on derekwebb.com.  Trust me, you won’t be sorry for giving old Derek another chance.

To see my other reviews for DW’s album, click here.

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