February 22, 2012

Sandra McCracken and Derek Webb at Eddie's Attic

I took my wife to see Sandra McCracken and Derek Webb play last Sunday night at Eddie's Attic in Atlanta. Just like when we went to see Fiona Apple in 2006, it was a surprise for her. I had never seen either of them play before with the exception of seeing Derek play with Caedmon's Call in 1997 in Birmingham. My wife saw Sandra play just last year at Berry College.

The format of the show was unique. Derek and Sandra have separate careers and each have extensive discographies. They do however have two EPs in which they combine their talents, and they began the concert with the "single" from their recent Tennessee EP, From You to Me. After that they mostly alternated songs and took tons of requests. Sandra's first song was a Bob Dylan cover, and I shot a video of it:


(Ironically I had just watched Watchmen the night before, and this song plays during the opening titles.)

I had never been a huge fan of either Sandra McCracken or Derek Webb until recently, despite being aware of their music for years and years. Sandra's most recent album (that Derek contributed significantly to) In Feast or Fallow really grew my appreciation for both of them (and was my #17 album of 2010). While not paying close attention to all of their releases, I have followed of both of them from a distance for a long time and am familiar with most of their catalog(s).

While in college in 1996, Caedmon's Call blew up. Like I said, I wasn't a huge fan, but I had numerous friends who were, and because of that listened to them a lot and was very familiar with most all of their songs. I learned early on by reading liner notes in Caedmon's Call albums that Derek Webb was the only member of the band that actually wrote songs. I found this fascinating, and instantly had far more respect for him than any other member of Caedmon's. That said, I still really wasn't a fan, primarily for stylistic reasons.

In 2002 or so, when Derek Webb left Caedmon's Call, instantly became more interested (for no reason at all). I didn't know it at the time, but he left the band to get married to Sandra. He has since released five solo albums, the first three of which are folk, the fourth rocks a little more, and then the fifth is electronica. One of the highlights of Derek's portion of the show was him playing songs from the electronic Stockholm Syndrome on acoustic guitar. While I love the fact that his lyrics are challenging and thought-provoking, the style of the most recent album is unlistenable for me. That is ironic, because I would typically say I prefer experimental electronic music to acoustic singer-songwriter stuff. All that said, I primarily follow and listen to Derek Webb because I am a fan of him as a person, and not necessarily his music. I read his tweets and blogs far more than I listen to his songs.

I am a far bigger fan of his wife, but it took me awhile. I became aware of Sandra McCracken in 2005 when  she released her first "new old hymns" album. The church we attend sings her songs frequently. She is a terrific songwriter and even her husband would admit she writes songs better (and far more frequently) than him. What I never realized until this show is how powerful (and awesome) her voice is. On most of her recordings her vocals are unfortunately lost within the instrumentation.

Sandra primarily played songs from In Feast or Fallow, but also made an effort to include a few songs from Gravity/Love, which is currently free on Noisetrade. (Noisetrade was founded by Derek Webb, and is by far the best place on the web to get free music legally.) This is her most recent "pop" album.

The highlights of the show for me were Sandra's Bob Dylan cover and when she played 10,000 Angels. For years I have wondered where this song came from, but never did the research to figure it out. Turns out it is a Caedmon's Call song (written by Sandra) that at one point was featured on Grey's Anatomy. During my research on that song I also discovered Sandra has been writing songs Caedmon's Call for over a dozen years, and composed 5 of the 12 songs on their most recent album, Raising Up the Dead.

Recent in-depth interview with Derek Webb about his music, life, family, etc. can be found at The Great Discontent.
And Paste Magazine also published a recent brief interview with both of them.

Other videos I shot:
Sandra McCracken & Derek Webb- In Feast or Fallow
Sandra McCracken & Derek Webb- Justice Will Roll Down
Derek Webb- Introducing Table for Two
Derek Webb- Table for Two

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