Consider the Birds, the most recent solo effort by 16 Horsepower’s David Eugene Edwards, starts with the line “Holy Spirit cause my skin to crawl” and ends with a song that proclaims “Glory be to the Father/ to the Son and Holy Ghost.” Typical indie-rock fare this is most certainly not. Forward your promotional copy to Pat Robertson and forget about it, right?
That would be a tragic mistake.
Yes, this is a Christian record, steeped as it is in pious sentiment and Biblical imagery. In fact, all of Edward’s recorded musical effort is heavily influenced by his religion, be it within the solo framework of Woven Hand or with the similarly minded (and slightly more raucous) rock outfit 16 Horsepower. But Edward’s strain of Christianity, which emphasizes darkness over light and vengeance over forgiveness, is not one often evoked in any genre of contemporary music (not even within that which is dubbed as explicitly “Christian”) and as such immediately marks Edwards as an uncompromising voice within the world of independent rock music.
Consider the Birds is Edwards’s third effort under the Woven Hand moniker, and it’s also his best. He doesn’t stray much from his signature sound: lush, mournful, minor key dirges within which Edwards ruminates on his recurring themes of faith, the fallibility of man, and the folly of the non-believer. The musical arrangements (generally featuring acoustic guitar, organ, chimes and muted drums) hint at a modern influence, particularly the work of Nick Cave or late-era Johnny Cash, but there is a sense of timelessness that runs through these songs. Edward’s warble-y, otherwordly voice sounds like it would be well-suited to a campfire sing-along on the Oregon Trail, particularly when he’s delivering lines like, “We’ve come together in a horse-head union/ Hang my tobacco hand from a beam.”
But no matter what he’s singing, Edwards radiates an intensity and conviction that is sorely lacking from most modern music. This is music that resonates with both the body and the mind; it is emotional, honest and haunting. Highlights include the gorgeous, plaintive opener “Sparrow Falls,” the slow-motion head nodder “Oil and Panel,” and, in particular, the trance-inducing “To Make a Ring.” This song is the album’s highlight, a repetitive, tribal expression of faith that comes to an ominous standstill midway through, when Edwards menacingly declares “The Lord will not be mocked, not by you or me,” as if he’s daring the listener to even think of blasphemy while under his captivating aural spell.
Edwards makes nary a misstep within these ten tracks and has created a deeply spiritual album. Whether you agree with his message or not is another matter entirely. When the music is this good, who cares?