This is a fitting tribute from one artist to another, of kindred spirits, often superior to the many other tributes of Mullins’ songs.
Artist: Webb, Derek
I knew Rich Mullins for the last twelve years of his life. I have met Derek Webb only once, although we have communicated online for several years. Why is this important?
Both artists have had great impacts on me over the years. I consider them, along with Keith Green and Steve Taylor, the musicians that have made me think, study, laugh, cry, and ponder the current state of the church, and whether I belong there. Honest Christianity involves wrestling with God and with our faith. Beginning with She Can And Must Go Free, Webb has done that for me and for many others for the last eighteen (!) years.
Webb’s status within or without the church is well documented these days. I would describe him as a “hopeful agnostic”, which really isn’t for me to judge. One thing he has not done is to deny the songs about God, the self doubt, and the skewering of Christians that desperately need it, whether they wish to hear or not.
Which, in a way, brings us full circle. I have likened Webb to Mullins many times in reviews and in conversation, a stance that he has always acknowledged as complimentary. He has often cited Rich as influential in his own songwriting (his blog is titled “How I Remember It”), and has released a five song EP of Mullins’ songs, available at this point only through his Patreon page.
These are just Webb and his acoustic guitar, stripped down versions that come across almost as finished demos in a way. The vocals are often wistful and plaintive, while conveying the same depth of meaning of the original versions. “We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are” seems to be the most personal (although that may just be my own spin on it), a tune about Mullins’ relationship issues with both a woman and with God.
“Calling Out Your Name” revisits a familiar love of nature and Creation. “Peace” speaks to the nature of friendship and to communion between people, whether in person or in shared thought. “You Did Not Have a Home” portrays Jesus as being focused only on His ministry, without possessions or the hold they can have of us. “Here In America” celebrates God’s love for us.
This is a fitting tribute from one artist to another, of kindred spirits, often superior to the many other tributes of Mullins’ songs. An expanded project would be welcome.
Brian A. Smith
13 March 2021