Since leaving acoustic band Caedmon's Call in 2003, Derek Webb has been remarkably prolific as a solo artistseven releases in just four years. Even more impressive, he reinvents his sound with every studio recording, from country-inflected pop to experimental rock to stripped-down modern folk.
Such is the case with The Ringing Bell (INO Records). Now he's embraced classic folk-rock reminiscent of The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
Webb is the rare Christian songwriter who calls us to conversation. Rather than merely reciting timeless scriptural truths, he asks listeners to use God's Word to examine current events. More importantly, he does so without pushing an overtly political agenda. Rather, he asks questions.
"I for an I" notes that loving enemies is harder than simple violence: "But I've got no choice unless you tell me who Jesus would kill."
After taking some heat for 2005's Mockingbird, which questioned whether Christians can justify war based on Christ's teachings, he now takes the discussion further by addressing unconditional love and forgiveness.
The bluesy "A Savior on Capitol Hill" may seem to take aim at President Bush, but really it is a prayer of frustration with all politicians: "Come to D.C. if it be thy will, because we've never had a Savior on Capitol Hill."
In "This Too Shall Be Made Right," he begins, "People love you most for the things you hate, and hate you for loving the things that you cannot keep straight." Webb goes on to challenge some of the greatest rationalizations of Christians relating to poverty, war, and other atrocities. He ultimately plays off Ecclesiastes 3 to conclude that while we live in a time of suffering now, we also look forward to a time of joy.
At just 30 minutes, The Ringing Bell is an extremely short album. But who cares when Webb continues to churn out such consistent and substantial songwriting? Besides, he says he's already working on his next project. There's undoubtedly more where this album came from.
Russ Breimeier, online managing editor of Christian Music Today.
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The Ringing Bell is available from ChristianBook.com and other retailers.
He is a member of the Square Peg Alliance.
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