January 10, 2005

Woven Hand "Consider the Birds"

Growing up in rural East Texas, I was provided with a childhood that was inherently darker than most. Living in the woods, surrounded by a very ominous thicket and mysterous sounds every night, there was a dark, ominous cloud hanging over my head. Not that I wasn't happy, mind you--but much like The Village, there were things out there that we didn't speak of--an evil presence that we didn't know. The balm for this evil was religion. Now, we're not talking a friendly, universalist form of faith--we're talking a very real Hell fire and damnation brand, one that let you know where you were going to go if the path you chose was not one of faith. It's a road filled with failure, wrong-doing and ultimate death. "Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth" was your destination...though, to be fair, I always thought that the door to eternal damnation was somewhere out in the woods.

If there's one musician who truly understands this darkness, it's David Eugene Edwards. As the leader of 16 Horsepower, he's spent well over a decade making dark, moody country slash folk slash rock slash bluegrass slash whatever music. Listening to 16 Horsepower is a journey into another world--a world that seems familiar, but as you travel, you realize it's an entirely different world. Over the past two years, though, he's released some of his darkest, most personal material to date as Woven Hand. Consider the Birds, his second album--third if you count the collaborative Blush Music, which was a unique electronica reinterpretation/reimagination of his self-titled debut--continue his exploration of faith and the darker side of life. Throw in the fact that his accompaniment is quite minimal, and you'll find that this record can be quite a chilling listen.

Though the music is dark and there's an occasional emphasis on the ramifications of a sinful life, this is not a negative record. In fact, the album is far from a hellfire sermon; (witness: "Judgment will not be avoided by your unbelief" in "To Make a Ring") on closer examination, you'll discover that Consider the Birds is a very, very loving, joyful record--in a very Southern Gothic way. Edwards sings with the same haunted growl that haunted such souls as Johnny Cash and Nick Cave. Even though a cursory examination of Edwards' image of God quickly shows him to be an Old Testament and that Edwards' words do contain a bit of the ol' fire 'n' brimstone, most of his songs are actually quite loving praises to the Lord and to those who believe in Him, and like Cave's major theme--no matter how far away from God the man might fall, even the most troubled soul is allowed the pleasure of salvation and forgiveness.

Edwards is a brilliant man, and his songs are beautiful, disturbing and haunting. Don't be intimidated by the Southern Gothic nature of his music, or the whiskey-soaked darkness of Edwards' voice. This is a truly beautiful album, one that's an open love letter from a man to for his Lord and Savior. Stunning. Simply stunning.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.wovenhand.net
Label Website: http://www.soundsfamilyre.com

No comments: