Derek Webb's Democracy Vol. 1 & 2. Very few musicians would put themselves ‘out there’ with their audience to not only perform songs of the audience’s choosing, but also to compose around the original and pull it off with such success.

Democracy, Volumes 1 and 2

Artist: Derek Webb
Label:  Independent
Release Date:
  Volume 1 - 2010
  Volume 2 –2011
  Volume 1 -   12 tracks
  Volume 2 -   10 tracks 
Derek Webb has continually pushed the envelope of Christian music providing thought provoking messages while breaking existing boundaries of his art. While Webb has succeeded in being at the forefront of Christian art, many in the conservative Christian camp may say he has gone too far. With Democracy he has both quiesed and upset. 

A founding member of the Caedmon’s Call, a leading CCM band in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Webb lit out as a solo performer early this decade providing many popular offerings while pushing the limits of the Christian music realm. Continually, Webb has lead the way in this venue both in his message, music, and in the media often used in conjunction with his music such as video, written content, and in collaborative efforts with other visual artists in recent years. 

Early in 2010, Derek Webb fans could cast their votes for up to 12 songs that they wanted Webb to cover in Democracy, Volume 1. The 12 songs having had received the most votes were then included in this first offering. Throughout 2010, one track was released per month to those fans subscribing to Democracy, Volume 1 through Webb’s web site. In 2011, Democracy, Volume 2 followed using the same game plan to pick this time 10 songs to be available to Webb’s fan subscribing to this volume. 

This review is offered to provide history and knowledge related to Webb’s ever-expanding artistic offerings. Following is a song-by-song summation of both Democracy volumes. 

Volume 1:
  1. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (The Beatles) – good vocals but fuzzy percussion on refrain doesn’t always work.
  2. “Fix You” (Coldplay) –acoustic guitar base with organ in background gives a mellow tone.
  3. “The Times They Are A-Changin” (Bob Dylan) – Webb’s slightly gruff voice and simple guitar strumming work well with Dylan’s songs.
  4. “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” (Gnarls Barkely) – electric drums and guitar with scratchy-synth based vocals make for darker, desperate feelings. Well done.
  5. “Chicago” (Sufjan Stevens) – Webb’s vocals work well here. This song has good breaks and great cadence; ending voice-overs make the song’s conclusion stick.
  6. “Where the Streets Have No Name” (U2) – Is that a ukulele?  A strong and emotional vocal performance combines with a nice composition to make a good cover.
  7. “Power of Love” (Huey Lewis And The News) – like a leftover from Stockholm Syndrome, the very scratchy vocals and Euro-pop snyth power this rendition, which is better off left on the shelf (even Huey couldn’t save this one!).
  8. “Eleanor Rigby” (The  Beatles) – good acoustic guitar saves this song, the lead vocals are mixed too lightly compared to the volume of the chorus.
  9. “The Sound of Silence” (Simon & Garfunkel) – featuring his wife, Sandra McCracken, great eerie piano and duet with McCracken are excellent, this mix is also found on their joint TN EP offering.
  10. “Karma Police” (Radiohead) – smooth, direct mixing from “Sound of Silence” to “Karma Police” with heavy bass and soap opera, Wurlitzer-like organ laying down the foundation for Webb’s signature dream-like sleepy vocals.
  11. “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen) – a great rendition of Cohen’s work with steadily building energy throughout the song.
  12. “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (hymn) – old, standard hymn with only piano and vocals sounding like it was recorded on a remote mic in an old, empty cathedral. A slight synth and overdubbed voice provide entry to the second stanza which takes on a deeper emotional complexion with added reverb.

Volume 2:

  1. “F**k You” (Cee-lo Green) – here, the scratchy synth vocals work as Webb exercises his vocal gifts in a pop-rocker. Despite the lyrics, this is a good rocker not often offered by this artist.
  2. “Livin’ on a Prayer” (Bon Jovi) – WOW, this moves like a Lamborghini on a Japanese freeway! Great rendition with big beat background gives new light to a rock standard.
  3. “God Only Knows” (The Beach Boys) – much cleaner than I thought it could be, this rendition stands up with great and simple piano. Watch for the vaudeville-like break.
  4. “One” (U2) – slow but fair rendition.
  5. “Be Thou My Vision” (hymn) – slow movement through an age-old hymn, well done but takes away from the collections rhythm.
  6. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Simon & Garfunkel) – nice and easy with slight backing guitar to set stage for emotion filled voice like only Webb can produce. This song is tailor made for his vocal qualities. Where you might think his voice is over-stretched toward the song’s end, the breaks in his voice highlight the emotion of the song’s climax.
  7. “Revolution” (The Beatles) –popier rendition of the Beatles classic, an interesting journey as is many of Webb’s compositions.  He loves to change things up!
  8. “Creed” (Rich Mullins) – here is a nice piece with hot percussion, like great claps and stomps of a good audience. Great touch with Webb reciting the Nicene Creed in song form.
  9. “Falling Slowly” (Once soundtrack) – lead song from Once movie soundtrack originally performed by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. A nice piece with good sound, a great feel good song.
  10. “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding” (Elvis Costello) – more Euro-pop electronica with samples and loops but a great vocal performance. This is where Webb shines, his gift is vocals which display emotion more easily than many a performer.

Very few musicians would put themselves ‘out there’ with their audience to not only perform songs of the audience’s choosing, but also to compose around the original and pull it off with such success. This is the mark of a great musician and artist, one who is both professional and prolific as reflected in his recent offerings. Not only this, but having a conscience and being a Christian makes for a wonderful and rare occurrence among his contemporaries.

SS Mertens

3nhalf3 ½ tocks