The World Will Bow
Album: Consider the birds
If Christian popular music has become lightweight artistic confectionery, so much content-free, unoriginal sentimental puff-pastry, then listening to Woven Hand is the aural equivalent of watching a weathered, dusty cowboy boot crushing a profiterole slowly under its heel.
Woven Hand’s music is not merely ‘Christian’, in the way that the Jonas Brothers or any number of popular CCM acts are Christian. It is fanatically Christian, in the way one imagines the great Christian monastic mystics to have been: totally, obsessively, self-denyingly dedicated to a vision of God that is strengthened rather than weakened by the fact it is not commonly held. It’s the kind of devotion that seems strange alongside the Nashville-Hollywood gloss of the Contemporary gospel, worship and Christian rock industries, but may seem familiar in its raw severity to many older Christians. Oddly enough, younger people with a thirst for authentic, avant-garde or truly alternative music have already found much to admire in this and more recent Woven Hand albums.
Woven Hand is the current musical outlet of David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horsepower. That band played apocalyptic Christian country rock, and it has to be said that Woven Hand is not a million miles away from its stle. Edwards’ voice is distinctive, his dark, frankly disturbing style even more easy to recognise as the one behind 16 Horsepower. But while steel-string acoustic and slide guitars are still in evidence, the cowboy schtick has been replaced by spiritual visions that seem to have travelled to Edwards’ troubled mind from Patmos via the Rocky mountains, bringing with them an increased openness to digital effects and distortions.
In To Make a Ring one of the most striking prophetic worship songs I’ve heard in years, Edwards warns: ‘Listen, judgement will not be avoided by your unbelief, by your lack of fear nor by your prayers to any little idol here,’ chanting over a zithering fiddle and almost shamanic drums: ‘Power, glory and dominion be unto the king! We will weave our hands together to make a ring forever round the throne.’ On Bleary Eyed Duty, Edwards sings of romantic love, but even then, his perspective is clear in his words: ‘It is a comfort for me to know you’ve willed it that I need her.’
Perhaps the most disturbing line on the album comes from Chest of Drawers, a quiet, downtempo Americana meditation on the nature of God and the day of judgement, where Edwards seems to speak softly into your ear in a darkened room: ‘The world will bow. The knees will be broken for those who don’t know how.’ It’s not quite a textbook approach to contemporary evangelism, but, then, keeping up with trends has never been the concern of the prophetic.
Rating out of ten: 8
Essential download: To Make a Ring