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Consider the Birds
Label: Sounds Familyre
When The Phantom Tollbooth interviewed David Eugene Edwards, the man behind Woven Hand, in 1999, he let us in on his desire to meet and work with Daniel Smith, the visionary behind the Danielson Famile. The imposing sounds of Edwards' band, 16 Horsepower, for whom phrases like 'apocalyptic country' had recently been coined, and the fragile, off-the-wall sounds of Daniel Smith's various projects seemed an unlikely fit. But five years on the two are firm friends and it is Smith's Sounds Familyre label we have to thank for making this record available in North America.
Like the first Woven Hand release, Consider the Birds has been dubbed "stripped down" from David Eugene Edwards' work with his band. It certainly is that, at least compared to their earlier work, but such a statement must be taken into context. With liberal use of a variety of european folk instrumentation: throbbing string bass, piano and banjo the sound is customarily intense and the rhythms drive along, at times invoking punk energy but usually with a brooding power. When the intensity drops the centrality of Edwards' vocals becomes clear, as his unique bass resonates across tracks such as "Chest of Drawers"
Lyrically, too, the content will come as no surprise to those who are familiar with Edwards' back catalogue, or even those who have simply come across the litany of enthralled reviewers who have lined up to admire his Old Testament-infused imagery and references to Southern gothic writers. While there is danger of repetition, he has become more adept at deftly combining the apocalyptic imagery with the hope that is its natural accompaniment, and the personal turmoil with ever clearer statements of commitment
The traditional "Down In Yon Forest", arranged here to build from a simple guitar introduction to a frenetic pace is perhaps as explicit as they come, but sits perfectly in context:
Half runs with waterDeftness is also the tale when it comes to the production work (Eugene Edwards chose to produce the album himself), heard most clearly on the backing to "Oil On Pane" where the attention to detail of the piano sounds is what draws the listener in. Such touches help differentiate Woven Hand from 16 Horsepower, and that is a helpful progression
That artists such as David Eugene Edwards are able to ply their trade and explore such unique visions is surely a sign of hope, just as their presence on the live circuit demonstrates that CCM is by and large a waste effort. This is a record that rewards careful listening and deserves thoughtful engagement.
James Stewart 10/30/2004
The second Wovenhand project from 16 Horsepower frontman David Eugene Edwards exhibits singular talent for harrowing and worshipful music. Surely, “Sparrow Falls” is the musical description of The Fear of God. The gothic-Western-Appalachian-gospel of “To Make a Ring” thunders darkly atop tribal drums, as Edwards paints devotion to the Almighty as grim duty. “The Lord will not be mocked; not by you or me,” he warns. “The world will bow; the knees will be broken for those who don’t know how,” intones Edwards soberly during “Chest of Drawers.” While the spirit of Consider the Birds is frightening, it remains pure. What could amount to a chilling listen is instead a refining, cleansing experience. Nonetheless, kids won’t be singing this in Sunday School along with “This Little Light of Mine.”
Jeff Elbel 1/31/2005