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Woven Hand - Consider the Birds

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Artist: Woven Hand

Album: Consider the Birds

Label: Sounds Familyre

Review date: Jan. 26, 2005

David Eugene Edwards plays earnest, folk-inflected music that reflects his deep devotion to a Christian God, but otherwise he couldn't be more different from his Sounds Familyre labelmates Sufjan Stevens and the Danielson Famile. Edwards is the yin to their yang, the vengeful, Old Testament Yahweh to their loving, New Testament Christ. On his third full-length as Woven Hand, he travels deep into the thicket of human depravity and rails with an intensity more indebted to the Great Awakening than any modern musical touchstone. Spicing paraphrased passages from the King James Bible with sawdust frontier parlance, Edwards fashions archaic constructions similar to Will Oldham's. But where Oldham sings about death and redemption (on I See A Darkness and elsewhere), Edwards exhumes the corpse. The best of his songs are so ripe that you can smell their sulfur and creosote.

Consider the Birds is Edwards' third full-length as Woven Hand, and it now appears that this solo project – once ancillary to his goth-gospel rock trio 16 Horsepower – monopolizes the bulk of his recording and touring time. In the opener "Sparrow Falls,” apocalyptic bells chime in time with cascading piano chords, slide guitar, and the singer's roiling confession. Observed by a small bird (a staple of Appalachian ballads like "Henry Lee") he establishes the scene of transgression in strange, expressive images ("We've come together in a horsehead union / Hang my tobacco hand from a beam"). The strings and piano generate an atmosphere of doom and gloom, but it’s the quality of Edwards' voice that sends the song straight down your spine. Tightly wound, he emits through implication: untenable vocal quivers and fluctuations in pitch imply blinding euphoria or scarring self-doubt.

In their later manifestation, 16 Horsepower incorporated a wide range of stylistic elements, including Eastern European Roma-folk, Cajun rock, and hillbilly bluegrass. Edwards continues this spirit of experimentation in his solo work, mixing modal, eastern drones with his stomping goth-folk on "To Make a Ring" and elsewhere. The effect is rich, seductive folds of styles and sounds – a blend of auras and eras – with a seething sermon delivered authoritatively over top ("Nothing in this world / Gives me a reason to doubt / I want into him / Of my flesh I want out"). "Tin Finger" sounds perhaps the most contemporary: over a ghostly banjo, stabs of industrial noise punctuate Edwards' words. This is the other end of his sonic spectrum: the visceral pummeling and teutonic seriousness of Einstuerzende Neubauten and Swans. Of course, Edwards doesn't utilize their volumes, but he doesn’t have to. Instead, he sings the way Jonathan Edwards preached in his famous sermons of the 1730s – voice low, rarely making eye contact, but with the furious conviction that none of us have a moment to waste.

By Nathan Hogan

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