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The Ringing Bell
Artist: Derek Webb 
Label: INO Records
Length: 10/30:37

On his three previous solo works, Derek Webb had established a pattern of saying the tough things that most Christians didn't want to hear - that Jesus probably didn't resemble the church of today, that war might be wrong, and that the root cause of most Christians' frustration lay within themselves.  While his views are much like that of a Biblical prophet (unpopular but mostly true), the listening audience at large generally ignored his album until he offered Mockingbird as a free download - 80,000 potential fans took a chance to check it out.

The Ringing Bell sounds as if Webb was influenced by recent tourmate John Davis.  While Webb's first three discs had a largely americana/folk feel to them, now he is channeling his inner Beatle, with a healthy dash of Wilco and electric-era Dylan thrown in for good measure.  "I Wanna Marry You All Over Again" is a paean (presumably to Sandra McCracken), based on reliving their courtship and the joy of falling in love.  "I Don't Want to Fight" is a makeup song, concerned with giving up our presumed right to be "right".  "A Love That's Stronger than Our Fear", however, is an antiwar piece that asks some pointed questions: 

What would you do if someone would tell you the truth
 But only if you torture them half to death
Tell me since when do the ends justify the means
 And you build the kingdom using the devils's tools...
This disc is more relationship based than Webb's other projects, and it is not immediately apparent if that is why it doesn't grab me as quickly as, say, She Can and Must Go Free.  "Name" is a light, romantic tune, and "The Very End" is another love song than could be directed at a woman or at God.  At times, it seems as if Webb has resorted to humor and sarcasm rather than the heaviness of his prior message.  This may regain him some of the listeners he has lost since the Caedmon Call's days, but I miss the heavier message that provoked the difficult discussions and ruthless self-examination that stark truths often require. 

Brian A. Smith
29 May 2007



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