Album Review :
Derek Webb - The Ringing Bell

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Artist: Derek Webb
Album: The Ringing Bell
Label: INO Records
Release Date: May 1, 2007
Review by: Eric Pettersson

Tracklist:
1. The End
2. The Very End
3. A Love That’s Stronger Than Our Fear
4. I Wanna Marry You All Over Again
5. I Don’t Want to Fight
6. Name
7. Can’t Be without You
8. I for an I
9. A Savior on Capitol Hill
10. This Too Shall Be Made Right

You may remember Derek Webb from his work in Caedmon’s Call or from 2005’s Mockingbird, which he made available for free download last year. In fact, since Derek went solo four years ago, The Ringing Bell is his seventh release. The Mockingbird project caused quite a stir, getting Webb on the cover of Relevant Magazine, and starting what Derek calls a “conversation.” His goal, as a musician, as a public figure, is not to tell us what to think, but just to get us to actually start thinking, to get the church, and hopefully even the world, talking things out and rethinking deep issues of ethics, doctrine, and a proper response to the injustice that is in the world. And indeed, The Ringing Bell continues and expands upon this conversation.

Derek Webb is most controversially known for his belief that Jesus would not support war for any reason. He continues to protest the sword on this new record, through sounds influenced by our parents’ generation of war protests. Unlike the acoustic, mellow nature of Mockingbird, The Ringing Bell picks up the electric guitar with songs ranging from commercial radio to Vietnam-era rock and roll. “I for an I,” which condemns the exchange of violence for violence and talks about the human impulse to fight back, has an electric guitar and string arrangement that sound like they belong on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band than on The Ringing Bell. Similarly, the next track, “A Savior on Capitol Hill,” finds Derek singing loudly over a twangy 60’s guitar, warning listeners not to expect a politician to ever be perfect or completely honest, and to not put hope in the government above hope in Christ. Then there’s the guitar driven pop songs, like “I Wanna Marry You All Over Again,” in which Derek, ever the quirky romantic, tells his wife he wants to remember the passion they had at the start. “A Love That’s Stronger Than Our Fears” is also radio ready, musically, though I doubt it will ever make it with a message that begs the church to value the truth of the Gospel over our own lives, while also taking a side note to renounce the use of torture by any group. Now, while these thirty minutes don’t make as many points as Mockingbird’s forty minutes, and those points don’t sink in as quickly on The Ringing Bell’s more fun sounding tunes, there’s still plenty of heavy material here, and it all comes together on the acoustic closer, “This Too Shall Be Made Right,” which reminds the Christian that one day everything will be perfect, with no more war, hunger, abortion, genocide, or poverty.

Making huge leaps musically, and finding new goals lyrically (listen to “Name” for an explanation of Derek’s “moving target” philosophy), Derek Webb has urgently continued talking about things that need attention, and doing so over some pretty sweet melodies and arrangements. He humbly recognizes in interviews that not everyone will agree with him and that’s fine, because to Derek it’s a matter of getting people to explore for themselves and allowing the Holy Spirit to convict, rather than trying to get everyone to meet his agenda (listen to “I Don’t Want to Fight”). In the end, I liked Mockingbird better, but the more music and the more messages from a man like Derek Webb, the better.

7/10

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