A few weeks ago, Nathan suggested that the singer/songwriter Derek Webb was trumpeting Anabaptist values. I haven’t checked out a new artist Christian music field for quite sometime now, but upon looking at his website I discovered that he was offering his all of latest album, Mockingbird, free to download. As a properly frugal Mennonite, I decided it was my duty to download it. Today I finally got around to listening to it.
What I discovered was a pleasant surprise: the first sarcastic Anabaptist “Christian Music” artist I’ve ever come across (though admittedly I don’t know that many). Here’s a sample:
don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music
don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law
i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me
– from “A New Law”
Webb’s lyrics are biting and to the point. In “Rich Young Ruler” he targets Western consumerism with pleasantly catchy prose:
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your suv
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
If anti-consumerism isn’t enough for you, in “My Enemies Are Men Like Me” he compares peace through war to fornication and samples Martin Luther King Jr. on the connection between arms sales and poverty.
Some of his lyrical observation aren’t particularly new or original, but its nice to hear them coming from unexpected quarters:
there are two great lies that i’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him
– from “A King & A Kingdom”
As far as his musical style goes, I’ve never had particularly refined musical tastes, so I’ll just quote another review which says his music sounds like “alt-country and folk of Wilco and Sufjan Stevens.”
If you don’t feel like going to the trouble of downloading the album (you have to enter the emails of five friends), you can go over to his main website and listen to songs from the album on streaming audio.
I, too, downloaded Webb’s Mockingbird album and quite appreciated his contribution – in particular to the Christian music scene. It’s finally a Christian album where I find myself saying “amen” several times throughout. I was under the impression the free download was just for one month but it appears to still be accessible. In any case, I would highly recommend checking the album out and sharing it among friends. Thanks for sharing some of the lyrics, Tim.
Tim, you sound like me, in saying that you haven’t checked out the contemporary Christian music scene for some time. I have been so thoroughly disillusioned with the shallow marketing of what Shane Claiborne calls the “Christian industrial complex” that I was quite skeptical when a friend recommended Derek Webb to me. I was like, “yeah, right, like the guy from Caedmon’s Call [who were quite mainstream] is going to any good.” But, like you, I was pleasantly surprised.
Initially, I had some hard feelings about Derek Webb’s music, because I felt angry at the fact that someone like him, who has been deeply involved with contemporary Christian music, is getting credit for saying all the “radical” things that Mennonites have been saying for centuries. I felt like, “hello, we’re already here, but people are treating him like he’s the big cheese, the new kid on the block.” But then I realized two things: (1) Too many of us have neglected spreading the word, so guys like Webb are doing it for us, and (2) I should be happy that he’s getting a much-needed message out, not jealous of him. So in the end, I like Derek Webb. Thanks for sharing this!
By the way, I should mention another singer who some of you may know, named Brad Yoder. He’s from Pittsburgh, and he’s a Mennonite singer-songwriter. He plays at a local coffee shop where I go to school. Check him out on iTunes.
It was fun while it lasted. The End