Monday, February 27, 2006

InFocus: She Must and Shall Go Free

In 2003, Derek Webb released his first solo project, She Must and Shall go Free. The CD was chock full of music after Derek's own style. The style was an acoustic rock/pop sound, extremely similar to his music on Caedmon's Call's Long Line of Leavers CD. But the lyrics were what set Derek's release apart from the rest of Contemporary Christian music.
Derek's first release featured 11 tracks, all on the topic of The Church. Derek said of the album, "We tend to think that the Gospel is what we tell people that don't believe, then we move onto bigger, better, deeper spiritual things. But there is nothing bigger, better, or deeper. And that's why the record is about the Gospel as it pertains to the Church, which is us."
The title track speaks of Christ's redemption for the Church.
“all her debts were cast on me,and she must and shall go free. peace of conscience, peace with God we obtain through Jesus’ blood Jesus’ blood speaks solid rest we believe, and we are blest...should the law against her roar Jesus’ blood still speaks with power."
On the first single of the album, "Take to the world", Derek teams up with Jars of Clay lead singer Dan Haseltine in a track about the Church spreading the gospel through a love that imitate's Christ's love.
"take to the world this love, hope and faith take to the world this rare, relentless grace and like the three in one know you must become what you want to save ‘cause that’s still the way He takes to the world."
Some people accuse Derek of preaching to them, but Derek does not just stand behind the microphone and just address faults of the Church, but addresses his own shortcomings as well. In the song "Saint and Sinner" Derek writes:
"‘cause i’m not a half a man i’m not a half a man Lord knows i love you now but a saint and a sinner is what i am."
And in the track "Crooked Deep Down":
"my life looks good i do confess, you can ask anyone just don’t ask my real good friends because they will lie to you or worse, they’ll tell the truth (ouch...)
because there are things you would not believe that travel into my mind i swear i try and capture them but always set ‘em free it seems bad things comfort me
(chorus) good lord i am crooked deep down everyone is crooked deep down but good lord i am crooked deep down."
While many Christians welcomed this lyrically incredible album with open arms, many others took offense. On the song Saint and Sinner Derek had written "I used to be a damned mess but now I look just fine, 'Cause you dressed me up and we drank the finest wine". Many took offense at the use of the word 'damned' and it was removed from the album version. Secondly, the brilliant song "Wedding Dress", paralleling the Church to a prostitute that continues to run after the world, included harsh language. "I am a whore I do confess, I put you on just like a wedding dress, and I , run down the aisle to You." But that was the beauty of the song. He held nothing back. He wanted to shock people into action, to get people out of their comfort zone. And besides that, it's TRUE! But Derek didn't apologize for offending people because as the opening track states, "I don't care if nobody loves me, but You (Christ)."
Overall, the album is absolutely amazing, from beginning to end, and is not just a good listen, but includes many good lessons.

Standout tracks: Wedding Dress, Take to the World, Lover.
Beautiful lyrics in the song "Lover":
like a man comes to an alter i came into this town.
with the world upon my shoulders and promises passed down.
and i went into the water and my father, he was pleased.
i built it and i’ll tear it down so you will be set free
but i found thieves and salesmen living in my father’s house.
i know how they got in here and i know how to get ‘em out.
i’m turning this place over from floor to balcony.
and then just like these doves and sheep you will be set free
i’ve always been a lover from before i drew a breath.
some things i loved easy and some i loved to death.
because love’s no politician, it listens carefully.
of those who come i can’t lose one, so you will be set free
but go on and take my picture, go on and make me up.
i’ll still be your defender, you’ll be my missing son.
and i’ll send out an army just to bring you back to me.
because regardless of your brother’s lies you will be set free
i am my beloveds and my beloved’s mine.
so you bring all your history and i’ll bring the bread and wine.
and we’ll have us a party where all the drinks are on me.
then as surely as the rising sun you will be set free

InFocus: Song of the Month

A New Law-- Derek Webb (from the CD Mockingbird)
Absolutely, incredibly piercing lyrics!

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
(pre-chorus) i don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me
(chorus) i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law
(vs. 2) don't teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice
don't teach me about loving my enemies
don't teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law (pre-chorus/chorus)
(bridge) what's the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Upcoming Releases: 2-28

Plumb-- Chaotic Resolve

Petra-- The Praise Collection

Various-- Sonic Praise 2, Worship for Life

Disciple-- Disciple (Dual Disc)

Sara Groves-- Add to the Beauty (Dual Disc)

Prancing Pony Inn

While this blog is all about Christian music, both past and present, I wanted to make everyone aware of another blog that reviews new movies and music (secular and Christian). All of these reviews come from a great friend of mine, and are"all written from a biblical Christian worldview." If you have the time, try to surf over to Strider's blog and let him know what you think (and tell him to write more often)!
The Prancing Pony

Monday, February 20, 2006

InReview: Wherever You Are Tour

Friday, Feb. 17th saw a sold out crowd of 6,000 pack into the Vines Center at Liberty University. The musical lineup: David Crowder Band and Third Day. After waiting in line for over three hours, we were more than ready for the music to begin. And we were not to be disappointed!

David Crowder Band jumped out onto stage, and though I’ve never been a big fan, played an incredible set. The tour is highlighting their newest release, A Collision (or 3 + 4=7) so they predominantly played songs from that record. They played their hit song “Here is our King” and praise song “Foreverandever, etc.” (for which David Crowder pulled out his keytar and laid down a ‘fat beat.’” Other songs included “O praise Him (All this for a king)” and “Undignified.” Perhaps their most impressive number was their rock opera “You are my Joy” off their latest CD. David Crowder set the tone for the show, getting the crowd up and jumping on one song, and getting everyone to sing along. David Crowder summed it up when he said “Y’all sound real pretty. But tonight, we want less pretty, more loud!” From talking about Third Day and the tour to Josh Groban (who Crowder thinks has a pretty voice), David Crowder knew just how to keep the crowd involved. David Crowder Band was utterly amazing!

Tai Anderson, the bass player from Third Day, came out before intermission and gave a talk about a mission trip he took, and about Third Day’s partnership with World Vision. Then, after the intermission, Third Day stormed the stage. The crowd was electrified as Mac Powell opened the set with “Tunnel” off of their latest album. This was only the second show of the “Wherever You Are” tour, thus Third Day was fresh and alive. The group went on to perform “Creed,” a cover of Rich Mullins’ song, and “Consuming Fire,” one of the first songs the group ever wrote. The tour is promoting the band’s latest CD “Wherever You Are” and so songs from that album got their fair share of play, from Brad Avery’s “Eagles” and Marc Lee’s “Keep on Shinin’” to “Communion,” a soft and reverent song about the Lord’s Supper. But old songs were not forgotten. The group performed “King of Glory” off their first worship album, and also played “Thief” off of their first album, which they rarely play live. Midway through the concert, Third Day broke it down acoustically, playing personal favorite “I’ve always love you” and “Your Love oh Lord.” Then, Mac Powell with his acoustic guitar played a beautiful rendition of the hymn “Blessed Assurance.” On the last chorus, the group backed him up and the result was awesome.

In between songs, Mac gave a few talks about the tour and what God has been speaking to him about lately. Also, Mac and Mark decided this was the group’s 1000th show, which stuck, and was referenced to several times throughout the show. The group finished up with “Show me your glory” and “Nothing Compares” before being ushered back on stage to a thunderous ovation. Mac Powell said he was disappointed with Liberty, because he heard people asking for one more song and he wanted to do several. The group played “Come together,” their latest hit “Cry out to Jesus” and finished with “God of Wonders.”
Third Day put on a great show, mixing the new with the old (although it would have been great to have heard a few more of their older songs) but seemed to lack some of the energy that David Crowder Band had. David Crowder engaged the crowd much more, getting the crowd pumped up. But both groups did a fantastic job, and the concert, overall, was a great night of music.

Photos taken from here

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Life after Derek: Caedmon's Call

Caedmon's Call formed in 1993 with four members: Cliff Young, Danielle Glenn, Todd Bragg, and Aaron Tate (although Aaron was just a songwriter). The group's name stems from the story of a 7th century monk named Caedmon who didn't feel he could sing well, but God called Caedmon to sing for Him, and Caedmon sang songs praising God and His glory. The group released their first CD My Calm//Your Storm as a demo record. By 1997, the group had added members Derek Webb and Randy Holsapple. The group's style was a mix of folk, pop, and rock and was unique in Christian music at the time. In 1997 Caedmon's Call released one of their best albums, a self-titled album featuring hits "Bus Driver" and the ballad "Center Aisle." In 1999 the groups second full-length album 40 Acres hit stores with songs "40 Acres" and "Thankful" making it big. Their third album, Long Line of Leavers focused on Derek Webb's vocals in songs like "Love is Different" and "What you want." The group went on to release a praise CD in 2001 entitled In the Company of Angels: A Call to Worship which included many hits, including "God of Wonders", "Who you are" and "Before there was time." They followed this up with a greatest hits record: Chronicles: 1992-2004, which Derek Webb thinks is a joke (he didn't even know he had any hits).
In 2003, the group released Back Home which was the last record Derek Webb was involved with before pursuing his solo career. The group went on several different missions trip in the last few years, and the result was their last album: Share the Well which contained a strong world music influence, primarily Indian in style. The album even includes some songs by members of the Dalit tribe. The album was critically acclaimed, but received almost no radio airplay and suffered in the stores.
Derek Webb and Aaron Tate were the primary writers for the group in the past, with Cliff Young (even as lead vocalist) writing very few songs. Derek mainly wrote the songs he sang, but also wrote for Danielle and Cliff (who are now married). Since Derek left, the group has relied more heavily on Randall Goodgame, Josh Moore and Andrew Osenga writing skills. Cliff and Danielle do all of the singing, except for two songs on Share the Well sung by Osenga. The group has undergone many changes, culminating in the present lineup:

Cliff Young – Lead vocals and rhythm guitar),
Danielle Young – Vocals (married to Cliff, formerly Danielle Glenn)
Garett Buell – Percussion
Jeff Miller – Bass Guitar
Todd Bragg – Drums
Joshua Moore – Keyboards, Accordion, Harmonica
Andrew Osenga – Guitars, Vocals
The group is set to release their latest album March 7th: In the Company of Angels II: The World will Sing, which will include some familiar praise and worship songs, but many original works of the band. Life without Derek goes on, but the music of Caedmon's Call just isn't the same.
*Information taken from

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Upcoming Concerts

2-16: Third Day/ David Crowder Band-- Fairfax, VA

2-17: Third Day/David Crowder Band-- Lynchburg, VA (Sold Out)

2-18: Shawn McDonald-- Christiansburg, VA

2-20: Carman-- Staunton, VA

2-23: WinterJam (Newsong, Newsboys, TobyMac, ZOE Girl, Hawk Nelson, Krystal Meyers)-- Norfolk, VA

2-25: Stellar Kart (with speaker Justin Lookadoo)-- Norfolk, VA

3-2: Kids in the Way-- Virginia Beach

3-3: Seventh Day Slumber-- Virginia Beach

3-11: By the Tree-- Woodbridge, VA

3-11: Nate Sallie-- Wise, VA

3-16: WinterJam-- Roanoke, VA

3-17: Superchic[k]/ KJ-52/Seventh Day Slumber-- McGaheysville, VA

3-18: Downhere-- New Kent, VA

3-18: Kirk Franklin/Mary Mary-- Hampton, VA

3-21: Relient K-- Norfolk, VA

3-26: Paul Colman-- Yorktown, VA

3-31: Josh Bates-- Wise, VA

Upcoming Releases: 2-21

Mainstay-- Well Meaning Fiction

Roads to Rome-- Roads to Rome

Brian Free & Assurance-- It's So God

Phillips, Craig & Dean-- The Ultimate Collection

The Fold-- This too Shall Pass

Bishop Eddie Long-- A New Beginning

Friday, February 10, 2006

Yahoo! Music: Who's Next

One of music's best kept secrets is Yahoo! Music. At Yahoo! Music, you can access everything related to your favorite artists, including discography, biography, influences, and even watch artists' music videos free of charge. But the best feature Yahoo! offers is their "Who's Next" category, where each month, users vote for their favorite up and coming artist, and Yahoo! brings them into the studio to perform a song live, and also to do an exclusive interview. While much of what Yahoo! brings in is not worth your time, over the last year, Yahoo! has featured 5 Christian artists! Among the likes of secular bands Hawthorne Heights and My Chemical Romance, Yahoo! has brought in Eisley, Mae, Copeland, Relient K, and this month's group, BarlowGirl.

By going to Yahoo! Music and with a decent internet connection, you can view BarlowGirl playing their smash hit "Never Alone." The recording quality is actually incredilby well done, and the song rocks better than their CD version. Also included is an artist interview, where BarlowGirl is extremely upfront about their faith.
Props to Yahoo! Music for giving Christian music an outlet to the public.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

InFocus: Derek Webb

Just who is this man in the white t-shirts? Derek Webb was a founding member of the Christian group Caedmon's Call. He played guitar, wrote songs, and sang for the group until he left in 2003 (due to the record label's desire to go in a different direction musically). He released his first studio album, She Must and Shall go Free in 2003. The CD received mixed results, half of listeners feeling they were being preached to, and the other half feeling encouraged. Later on, in 2004, Derek Webb went on a solo tour to a bunch of cities performing "house" shows, often playing in the living rooms of certain houses before small audiences. Derek has never been a fan of the glitz and glammer of the stage, and the small comfortable setting without the lights and PA system helped him to connect with the audience in a personal way. He went on to release The House Show, a collection of songs from his first album, and others not previously released, recorded live.
In late 2004 Derek released his second studio album, I See Things Upside Down, filled with 12 new tracks. This past December Derek released his third and latest studio album, Mockingbird, featuring 11 new tracks with intricate lyrics and an acoustic feel.
Derek has never been fully backed by the "Christian Music Industry," which is odd seeing his lyrics are blatantly Christian. Several took offense to his hard-hitting lyrics in the song "Wedding Dress" off of his first album, others not appreciating his 'preaching' from the microphone. But Derek has never been one to be swayed by the opinion of the masses, and continues to produce music after his own style.
Derek grew up in Texas, but now lives in Nashville with his wife, Sandra McCracken, a fellow singer/songwriter. Derek is often recognized for his white t-shirts which he wears all the time, both at concerts, and in album photos. The reason behind the shirts is actually quite simple: he needed something he could take in mass quantities with him when touring with Caedmon's Call. “I haven’t thought about what I was going to wear on any given day for better than 10 years,” he confesses.* One other notable feature of Derek are his tatoos. He has the Five Tenants of the Reformation tattooed on his left arm, a Canterbury cross on his left forearm, a Celtic eternity knot around his right arm, and the Greek word for 'Grace' on his right thumb.* Pictures of the tatoos can be viewed here:
Rock on, Derek!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Upcoming Releases: 2-14-06

The Listening-- The Rock 'N' Roll Worship Circus Becomes...The Listening

The Tonic (from Cross Movement)-- The Dash

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Today's Releases: 2-7

Cindy Morgan-- Postcards

Cross Culture-- Proof Positive

Monday Morning-- Fools Paradise

Practically speaking

Today's Christian Music "industry" focuses on reaching youth. With this God-given outreach, groups have an incredible platform to minister to kids in their everyday lives. And yet so many seem to forget this and instead try to impart theology in their songs. Now, don't get me wrong, Biblical principles and theology in music is well and good, but to be honest, it doesn't always apply to the lives of youth. So often the Church assumes that if they ignore the ugly realities of life inside the Church, they will go away. If we pretend that suicide and sex aren't discussed by youth, maybe it will become true. Nothing could be further from the truth. So here's to the artists who addres issues that aren't preached about in Church, that are often deemed "taboo."

Self-inflicting injuries:
So many people try to block out the world and the troubles in their lives by injuring themselves. They figure it's one way they can control some small part of their lives.
Christian artist Plumb has released four different studio albums, and on each album she puts one song about this issue. Her latest release includes the song "Cut", in which she writes,

"I may seem crazy Or painfully shy And these scars wouldn't be so hidden If you would just look me in the eye I feel alone here and cold here Though I don't want to die But the only anesthetic that makes me feel anything kills inside I do not want to be afraid I do not want to die inside just to breathe in I'm tired of feeling so numb Relief exists I find it when I am cut."
Superchic[k] also addresses this issue in their song "Hero."

"No one talks to her, she feels so alone She’s in too much pain to survive on her own The hurt she can’t handle overflows to a knife She writes on her arm, wants to give up her life Each day she goes on is a day that she is brave, Fighting the lie that giving up is the way, Each moment of courage her own life she saves When she throws out the pills a hero is made ."
It's an issue that is very relavent in the lives of youth, so props go to Plumb and Superchic[k] for bringing it to people's attention.

Suicide, its never pretty, but it exists, even in the church. Hawk Nelson addresses this topic in their upcoming release "Smile, it's the end of the world."
Newsboys sing the song "Ellie G." in which they address the issue of salvation and suicide. Can you lose your salvation by committing suicide?
"how can we return that which we never could earn? God, I long to see her face we haven't a hope beyond Your grace I know that You will overcome evil for good."
Salvation is permanent, you can't return it, and it can't be taken away, even through suicide. The song also offers encouragement to people who are considering suicide to consider their lives and how much they are worth, showing that suicide is not the correct option.
Derek Webb wrote the song "Center Aisle" on caedmon's Call's first album.
"In November of '95, the sister of a friend of mine from high schoolcommitted suicide. Having never been to a funeral, I was veryapprehensive, especially since I had been asked to play a song duringthe service. Seeing her in that room along with all of those people wholoved her and cared about her really made me think. I mainly wonderedif whatever it was that had driven her to that point could have beenworked out in that quiet room with that group of people. I supposequestions just lead to more questions. I wrote this song on the wayback home in the car. (Derek Webb)"
In the song, Derek says, "What crimes have you committed Demanding such a penance That couldn't wait for five more minutes And a cry for help. 'Cause this room is so peaceful And this room is so quiet And I hate the silence And I can't walk the center aisle" Hold on to hope, don't commit suicide.

This eating disorder where people, (nearly always teenage girls) starve themselves in order to "look beautiful" is a direct result of our society saying you have to look a certain way, wear a certain size, have a certain hair color to be "attractive." But beauty comes from the inside, not from the length of your waist. In the song "Courage" Superchic[k] addresses this issue.

"I don't know the first time i felt unbeautiful The day i chose not to eat What i do know is how i've changed my life forever I know i should know better There are days when i'm ok And for a moment, for a moment i find hope But there are days when i'm not ok And i need your help So i'm letting go I need you to know I'm not through the night Somedays i'm still fighting to walk towards the light I need you to know That we'll be ok Together we can make it through another day."

Sex, purity, and relationships:
Sex before marriage in the Church? No way?! Yes Way! Sex seems to be taboo in our churches. Preachers are afraid to mention it as if it's the new three-letter word. But it's real, and it's something every teenager deals with on a day-to-day basis. Remaining sexually pure is a difficult thing in our society.
KJ-52 talks about this in his song "Check Yourself"
"Virgin ain't a drity word don't be ashamed of that. See in reality people be respectin that. Stand up fro yourself tell 'em jus chill wit that. And even if they diss turn around and bless them back...See God said save yourself for ya marriage. And it was for a reason don't misunderstand it. Sex is a beautiful gift don't mishandle it. Ya better jus check yourself and don't damage it"

Rebecca St. James (Christian music's most eligible bachlorette) wrote the song "Wait for me" as a personal heart cry that speaks to all single people:
"Darling did you know that I, I pray about you Praying that you will hold on And keep your loving eyes only for me. Cause,I am waiting for, Praying for you darling. Wait for me too, Wait for me as I wait for you"

BarlowGirl talks about dating in their song "Average Girl", recomending the non-recreational dating method to people.
"No more dating, I'm just waiting. Like sleeping beauty, my prince will come for me. No more datig I'm just waiting. 'Cause God is writing my love story"

Give it up for TobyMac! In his song Irene he talks about the difficulties surrounding a teenage girl who becomes pregnant, and her struggle to make the right decision. Such an encouraging song!
"Last night you had a dream you was the homecoming queen Today you're 18, happy birthday Irene. quit school you had to drop out to raise your little child Doesn't seem to be anyone around You've got to reach up to touch rock bottom. The powers that be keep you downtrodden. Daughter of Zion, I heard you prayer, Just cast your cares and please beware of snakes: They come in all shapes and sizes Tempt you, put scales on your eye lids. Don't waste your sorrows They'll give you strength tomorrow...tomorrow Your Calvary's about to come so: Keep your head up, don't you ever let up This storm will pass you'll be ready for the next one. Hey little girl with the pressures of theworld on you shoulders Don't say that it's over I heard your prayers, just cast your cares And I'll be there so don't you fear. Hush little baby don't you cry Daddy's gonna sing you a lullaby. Everything's gonna be alright, The Lord's gonna answer your prayer tonight"

Again, props to TobyMac for his song "what's goin' down"
"Welcome to the world of a girl name Susie, Susie's only crime was that she was born a cutie. Physically abused by her uncle and his friends Alcohol let 'em all leve the house with grins. But Susie couldn't shake off the memories Forced to find her own kind of remedy. A man-eater for the rest of her days Three kids, three men, no daddies by eleventh grade"

In General:
Superchic[k]'s song "Hero" talks about suicide, depression, and role models. Thousand Foot Krutch's song "This is a call" speaks of the calls of youth that go ignored by Chrisitans so often.

"She fooled all of her friends into thinking she's so strong But she still sleeps with the light on And she acts like it's all right on, as she smiles again. And her mother lies there sick with cancer And her friends don't understand her She's a question without answers Who feels like falling apart. She knows, she's so much more than worthless, She needs to find a purpose, She wonders what she did to deserve this...Have you ever felt this way before, Cause I don't wanna hide here anymore. Take me to a place where nothing's wrong And thanks for coming, shut the door And they say some one out there sees us, Well if you're real, then save me Jesus Cause I've been this way for far too long I wasn't meant to feel alone"

So, in closing, props to these, and many other artists who take the Gospel to the youth on a personal level. And here's a challenge to the Church and other artists: open your eyes, before it's too late!

Monday, February 06, 2006

InFocus: Derek Webb in concert w/ Scott Kemper

Friday evening in New London, VA, saw Derek Webb and Liberty University's own Scott Kemper in concert at a small community Church. Blue Ridge Community Church hosted the incredible concert, highlighting Caedmon's Call's own Derek Webb.
The evening opened with small time artist Scott Kemper from neighboring Liberty University. Scott has released one album, "Ocean's Roar" that showcases his incredible musical and vocal skills. Friday night he lead the crowd in some original, as well as cover worship songs, including "Ocean's Roar" and closing with the awesome song "No Greater Love."
Following Scott's act, Derek Webb, formerly from Christian pop group Caedmon's Call, performed. Derek has just released his third full length studio album, Mockingbird, and spent a good deal of the concert showcasing its songs. The title "Mockingbird" deals with Webb's thoughts on a mockingbird's mimicking others, and it's relation to his life. His song "New Law" holds no punches back, pointing out our tendency to not "wanting to know, if the answer's not easy...just give me a new law."
The most notable thing about Webb (besides his white t-shirts) is his powerful lyrics. Webb writes much about the Church, encouraging, but also condemning her. Arguably the best song of the evening was "Wedding Dress" in which Webb parallels the Church to a whore when it "puts you (Jesus) on just like a wedding dress and run down the aisle." Webb's vocals were backed solely by his own guitar, which made for an even better performance. Webb drew on his latest cd and his first offering "She must and shall go free", as well as playing several songs from Caedmon's Call's "40 Acres" record.
In between songs, Webb gave listeners a look into his life, including the joys, and complications of marriage, songwriting, and life in general. He finished up the concert with his masterpiece "Lover" off of his first album. This song, with it's heart-piercing lyrics, proves that Derek Webb is one of the finest singer/songwriters of his generation. Rock on, Derek!

February InFocus: Derek Webb