By Victor Minetola
I grew up in a time—the ‘80s— when Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) oozed with cheese and saccharine and contemporary worship services meant there were multiple acoustic guitars, maybe bongos and songs that were written 20–30 years ago. In 1993, I was living in in New York City while attending audio engineering school and working in the music industry. This was back when music was released mainly on cassettes and CDs and the internet was just about to break. Little did I know that, at the same time, things were changing in CCM and worship music as well. Christian bands were writing songs at the intersection of faith and life while improving production quality.
1993 was the year that Caedmon’s Call, Derek Webb’s first major band, got their start. They were writing music in the folky/alternative rock vein, indicative of the style popular at that time. They quickly became critics’ darlings in the CCM world, taking part in the wildly popular City on a Hill albums (“God of Wonders” anyone? That was Caedmon’s Danielle Young singing along with Mac Powell of Third Day). That’s about the time I started learning about some of the great worship music being written at the time.
In 2001, Derek Webb left Caedmon’s Call to pursue a solo career. While many of his contemporaries went on to churn out worship songs (which, I would admit, got to a point that seemed like a machine or formula were behind everything…), Derek seemed to take the path of a modern day prophet. His 2003 solo debut—She Must and Shall Go Free—met with criticism because of its strong language. “Wedding Dress,” a first person narrative, sings “’Cause I am a whore, I do confess / I put you on just like a wedding dress / And I run down the aisle.” Many Christian retailers refused to carry the album, wondering why he would refer to himself—or, worse, the Church—as a “whore” and a “bastard child.” Read Ezekiel 16 or Hosea to get an equally (if not even more) shocking picture of how God views his people wandering from him. Such has been the past 10 years of Derek Webb’s solo career, writing songs about a Church he loves and faith he wrestles with. The words aren’t always neat and pretty, but they will get you to think.
The words aren’t always neat and pretty, but they will get you to think.
As the world of modern worship music and CCM has changed, so has the music industry in which I used to work. Webb has created a company called Noisetrade, which allows you to download music from new exciting artists for free. You are allowed to leave a tip if you’d like, and are given the option to tweet or post to Facebook about your new music. It’s a great place to find out about new up-and-coming artists. Big established acts like Jars of Clay and Radiohead have even utilized their services.
Derek just released his eighth solo album, I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry and I Love You, and has just embarked on his “Apology Tour” in support of it. He says the title is less of an apology for things he has written in the past but more of a posture we a fellow believers should take with each other. Pastor Scott rocked my world one Lent when he said that Matthew (a tax collector for the Roman government) and Judas (an extreme opponent to Roman rule of Israel) both fellowshipped at the table and walked together with Jesus (wouldn’t it have been interesting if they were put together when Jesus sent them out two by two?). Sometimes we will disagree. Sometimes hard words need to be said. Other times hard words need to be apologized for.
Derek Webb brings his “Apology Tour” to University Lutheran Chapel on Wednesday, October 23 at 7:30 pm. There are three ticket prices—$20 (with Q&A @ 5:30 and reserved seating), $12.00 (reserved seating) and “Name Your Price” (general admission).