I’ve been a half-hearted fan of Justin McRoberts for a few years, but it wasn’t until I received his new album Deconstruction in the mail that I really started to appreciate him.
Man, his other stuff was really good, but this album is incredible. Or maybe it’s just that I’m finally realizing how good of an artist and writer McRoberts is.
The album is pretty stripped down indie folk rock. There’s not a lot of extra instruments and synthesized noises to get in the way of the words and message of the songs. In this stripped down environment, songs like “On the Night You Were Betrayed,” “America and the Soul,” and “Done Living” stand up on the power of the words and images more than anything else.
All in all, this is a great album, from the country-tinged folk sound to the message of justice and compassion to the interesting, well-written lyrics. This is the album that brought Justin McRoberts permanently onto my playlist.
If you don’t have Deconstruction, go out and buy it now. The music is great, and the message is similar to that of Derek Webb… and Jesus. McRoberts works closely with Compassion International, International Justice Mission, and Blood Water Mission, all of which I think are awesome ministries. In his songs he covers heavy themes of social justice with honesty, humor, and creativity. Whether he’s offering a rebuke to hypocrisy or he’s crying out on behalf of the poor and oppressed, the entire album carries the weight of the hurting on its shoulders. I never felt overloaded with whining about society’s problems though, like can happen sometimes with an album that’s got a heavy message. I just got a sense that I can and should do something to help those who are worse off than myself.
McRoberts has stated that he believes hope, justice, and compassion “are the defining characteristics of our likeness to God. The need and desire to care for the poor and oppressed is something we share in common with all humanity, not simply the religious.” A sense that we should care for the poor and bring justice to the oppressed is a part of who we are as humans.
When I’ve gone to developing nations in Africa and Latin America, it’s always refreshing. Whether I’ve been in Cameroon or Costa Rica or Chicago, Illinois, people are people. We’re all the same underneath the exterior stuff. We’re all made in God’s image but desperately in need of Jesus to come and restore it to us. Its not our possessions, our money, or our high-tech society that make us humans. McRoberts has said, “Not only do the poor need us, we need the poor to remind us what being human is about. In the same way that the poor learn to identify themselves with their lack, the wewalthy likewise learn to identify themselves with their wealth. It is in the meeting of the two that we can recognize ourselves and one another as human.”
Don’t be scared by all the talk about social justice – not every song on the album is about mercy for the oppressed. McRoberts has enough lighter songs in the mix so you don’t get overwhelmed and crushed with the task before us.
Like I mentioned earlier, the album is pretty stripped-down musically. This definitely works to bring the images and ideas of the songs to the forefront, instead of all the musical bells and whistles that could be added on. “We really wanted to limit the instrumentation to what was essential, let the songs breathe on their own,” says McRoberts. I like it. The fewer instruments forces the songs to stand on their own, and stand they do.
So, yeah, the album is great. Go out and buy it. And if you can, McRoberts plays a lot of college campuses, so check him out at a live show sometime.
Here are two songs off the album that I hope you’ll enjoy:
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