Woven Hand – Consider the Birds

Woven Hand
Consider the Birds

David Eugene Edwards, the enigmatic son of a fire-and-brimstone preacher, has confounded and amazed people for years fronting the Denver-based 16 Horsepower, in the meantime creating an entire genre some call gothic-folk or -country. His almost otherworldly powerful voice, his lyrics of religion and faith and judgment, and his incredibly tight instrumentation have turned all he touches into undeniably potent genius. On Consider the Birds, his third essentially solo album under the Woven Hand moniker, Edwards is back with what may be his most impressive release yet.

I can’t help but draw similarities between Edwards’ passionate songs and those of vintage Johnny Cash in his most black moments. Edwards may be our generation’s Cash, in fact, so rich and unique is his voice and so climactic his efforts. Without the more guitar-driven sound of 16 Horsepower – Woven Hand features more banjo, piano, and upright bass but still plenty of acoustic guitar and bits of electric – Edwards’ vocals and lyrics play even more of a role on Consider the Birds and every last moment of his passion is felt like a brick.

The gorgeous and reverberating guitar and bits of piano of “Sparrow Falls” sets the tone for this immaculate album. The repeated “Forever ‘round the throne” on the booming, haunting “To Make a Ring” leads into lines like “Listen / judgment will not be avoided by your unbelief / by your lack of fear / nor by your prayers,” clearly showcasing Edwards’ heady but powerful songwriting. Similarly haunting, “Oil on Pane” is a colossal track, filled with so much layering of music that it’s almost even overwhelming. The appropriately named “Into the Piano” is stark piano and softly strummed guitar, mixing with Edwards’ echoed voice for a gorgeous effect.

The Cash influences are even clearer on the quieter tracks, like “Chest of Drawers,” on which Edwards’ voice, echoed just enough, has never sounded better. “The Speaking Hands” feels oppressive a bit, but not in a bad way, instead, riding stark piano and drums to convey a weight almost equal to Edwards’ voice and words. By contrast, “Down in Yon Forest” could be a traditional folk-based gospel song, with even old-style instrumentation that seems a perfect fit for Edwards’ musical preaching. Along with that approach, “Tin Finger” makes perfect use of stark banjo and unique rhythm.

Some may find Edwards too heavy-handed, but then I’m sure the same complaint has been made of such luminaries as Cash or Tom Waits. For those who want their music to mean something, to convey the true feelings and emotions and power of their performer, there’s little more potent than Edwards in either of his projects. But while I treasure 16 Horsepower’s music, I’m completely blown away by Woven Hand and Edwards’ almost tangible presence. This is truly a beautiful, powerful, and amazing album, and it’s one that simply must be heard.