“This fear is only the beginning, all for the loving hand”
One critic described the music of Wovenhand as “Bauhaus meets Billy Graham.” While that description does ring true, I have another one. Wovenhand, the `solo’ music of 16 Horsepower frontman David Eugene Edwards, is like Nick Cave and Johnny Cash in a shootout in Deadwood. The quotation above comes from the incredibly powerful track, “Dirty Blue,” and it perfectly sums up the themes throughout Mosaic, Edwards’ fourth full-length as Wovenhand, a name that represents hands in prayer. The repeated chorus of that same song sums up it even further as Edwards sings “There is a sorrow to be desired, to be sorrow’s desire.” Edwards’ clever and literate lyrics are always a highlight of every album he’s a part of, but on Mosaic he seems to have surpassed even himself.
It’s difficult to determine where Edwards’ religious beliefs and his respect for Native Americans and their connection with nature begin and end. It seems from his lyrics that they are not altogether separate. In the first vocal track, “Winter Shaker,” which follows the ominous drone of the instrumental lead “Breathing Bull,” Edwards sings of being “haunted by battles lost, still living on Indian land,” while alternately repeating in a thunderous tone, “All His Glory” and “Hallelujah.” “Swedish Purse” takes its direction from a medieval melody, and if that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what does. The song finds its narrator away from his wife, lost at sea, asking God how far he’s drifted. “Twig,” in turn has lyrics that were actually based on a chant called “Eternal Creator of the World” written by St. Ambrose.
The above-mentioned “Dirty Blue” is one of the major highlights of Mosaic. It is also the first appearance of Elin Palmer who provides absolutely incredible strings. Her presence is what led my wife to believe that Woven Hand sounds like the male equivalent of Loreena McKennitt. “Slota Prow” finds Edwards singing in another language, something vaguely Russian sounding, which would fit in with the idea that the album was recorded during a cold Elktooth, Colorado winter. If you’re one of those people who tends to have `seasons’ for particular music, Mosaic is definitely a winter album. Fans of Woven Hand come from two different sides, those with faith and those without (or indifferent), with one side comparing his music to Pentecostal hymns and the other finding similarities to the gothic influences of Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil. The truth is somewhere in between.
Some listeners might be put off by the religious imagery, others the dark and ominous music, but it is just this combination that makes David Eugene Edwards such a force to be reckoned with. Who else could take a fourth century chant and turn it into something contemporary? In my review of Wovenhand’s Consider the Birds, I made it a point to define the `fear of God’ as both terror and awe. Mosaic inspires both of those emotions in me.