The Common Good

'I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You:' Album Review

It’s been twenty years since I rose and cleared my throat
It’s been ten years since stood outside the church
- Derek Webb, I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You

'I Was Wrong, I'm Sorry, and I Love You' album cover, via Facebook
'I Was Wrong, I'm Sorry, and I Love You' album cover, via Facebook

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The first verse of the first song on the Derek Webb’s new album is a recap of his music career, from Caedman’s Call in the 90s to his solo career launched with She Must and Shall Go Free (2003). Since that first solo album, Webb has pushed all sorts of buttons in the church and the “Christian” music world. From albums Stockholm Syndrome (2009) to Sola Mi (2012) and Ctrl (2012), he’s pushed his own musical boundaries and themes, incorporating elements of hip-hop and electronica and veering away from his gospel-country-folk roots. 

I Was WrongI’m Sorry & I Love You releases today across the country. While you can buy the album online, it is also at a number of Christian retailers for only $4.99 (an unbelievable deal, I must say). It is a return to those gospel-country-folk roots while still embracing all he’s learned in the past 10 years of a solo career. The bright guitar sounds return alongside mellow synthesizers, and for some songs, a crowd-sourced chorus.

But more important than the sounds are the lyrics. They’re not snarky or sarcastic like earlier records Mockingbird and The Ringing Bell, but still raw and personal. “Heavy,” for example, has the same soul as “Wedding Dress” (one of Derek’s most popular songs. From the album, She Must and Shall Go Free) — they both capture the moment that the tax collector beats his chest while crying, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Other songs are written as protest songs (“Everything Will Change”) and others point straight at our relationship with God (“Lover Part 3”).

One theme that runs through I Was Wrong is God’s love for us, the church, despite our disputes and disagreements. In previous albums, Derek has been more critical of what we could refer to as the “Christian Right” — those who vote for politicians just because they are anti-gay marriage (“Freddy Please) or that support even the most unjustifiable of wars because of their belief in American exceptionalism (“My Enemies Are Men Like Me”). But I Was Wrong is an attempt at reconciling the church to Christ and the church to each other (and even attempt to himself to the folks he has alienated in previous albums). For example, in “A Place At Your Table,” he sings this:

Whether the choir robes or drums and guitars
Cathedrals high or at the local bar
If a woman serves, if it’s blood or wine
Oh the mystery of the divine

In conflict and descent, we divide
but you defend and keep your bride in purity and peace
So there will always be a place at your table for me

In his last video of the title track leading up to the album’s release, Webb explains the song in this way:

“All growing up I heard the three things you had to say in order to keep any relationship going were I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I love you. And now more than ever if we (and by we, I mean the church), if we’re going to do this thing together and have any impact on the people around us, we’re going to have to learn how to say these things to each other.” 

When all is said and done, I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You will hopefully give us language and energy to say these things to each other, and challenge us to think about reconciliation in new ways. Look for it in a Christian bookstore near you, or chat with him when he comes through town on his Apology Tour!

James Colten is the former Assistant to the CEO at Sojourners and is a part of Derek Webb’s launch team. (No, he’s not biased; it really is a great album.) Follow him on Twitter @jamescolten.

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