Last weekend I travelled to Akron, OH to catch Derek Webb's last stop on his Stockholm Syndrome tour. As far as the new sound on this album, it is a far cry from the folk-rock of the Caedmon's days, but in some ways felt like the maturing of an artist in it for the long haul.
Synths and samples have taken the place of djembes and D-28s. Songs on this record are sounds first and lyrics second, not an unwelcome flip, but a noticeable change from the typical personal narrative driven texts of previous work.
Mostly it looked like Derek and his partner on this record, Josh Moore, were just having a lot of fun with this form and behaved like they were in it for themselves and their creative enjoyment. It reminded me of what Bob Dylan's life might have been like if people didn't put up so much fuss about his "going electric."
After getting back to Detroit and popping the "making of" DVD into the player, you start to get a sense of the visual cues to the album as well. They typically white t-shirted Derek spends most of the film (and live concerts apparently from the evidence in Akron) in a black version of the same. This seems reflected in the dystopic views of heaven and love songs to professional haters like Fred Phelps.
At the end of the concert, album, and film though Derek offers the hope song - the text to bring it all around. Where "In the end it will all be ok | That's what the wise men tell us | So if it's not ok then it's not the end, oh my friends." Perhaps there is some nod here, and in the choice of folky Marc Scibilia for the opening act of the tour, that we're all still working here. Derek isn't done writing folk songs, but is doing something different now. And we aren't done trying to become the Beloved Community. And the world isn't healed, but we can head in that direction, with help.
And in the film, he's back in the white t.