Backcountry crooner continues 16 Horsepower's mission work with Woven Hand 

The ship may harbor a different name, but David Eugene Edwards sails the same seas. The former 16 Horsepower frontman started his solo project, Woven Hand, during a break, and while the music has changed along the way, Edwards still retains the haunting atmospheres and stark lyrical outlook for which he's known.

Formed in 1992, 16 Horsepower played a kind of Pentecostal country that writhed in backwoods dirt, a rock 'n' roll bug crawling up its spine and a shadowy storm brewing in its eyes. Edwards' wailing croon offered dark sketches of dissipation that stretched towards salvation, or at least a swig of hope.

While 16HP reunited after the hiatus for 2002's "Folklore," the Colorado band had run its course, and Edwards moved forward with Woven Hand, employing a rotating cast of musicians. Although it leaves the country behind, Woven Hand retains Edwards' Gothic, brooding sensibility and religious fascinations. His grandfather, a Nazarene preacher, helped raise Edwards, so while he abhors organized religion, the tendrils of faith find deep roots in his songs.

"It's always been a part of my life," Edwards said. "I know plenty of other kids who it was part of their life and then they forgot it, but I was never that way. I always believed what was true and right was extremely important, so the music I make is always part of that. There's no way for me to separate my spiritual life from anything else."

Woven Hand will perform 8 p.m. Sunday at The Conservatory. Edwards and his new band largely alternate between supple, vaguely ominous folk and a shambolic, primitive, 1960s folk-blues drone that suggests The Doors holed up in a sweat lodge. Indeed, there's American Indian ancestry running through both sides of Edwards' family, each of which has a history of tribal missionary work, which remains one of his fascinations. "Horsetail," from his new album, "Ten Stones," revolves around a holy man who wafts a horsetail over preparing warriors, which would allegedly bring luck in battle.

"It's a nice image and everything, but it doesn't really work," Edwards chuckled, dismissing the superstition. "(I) walk under ladders, break mirrors and throw my hat on the bed " all the things you're not supposed to do, because I really don't believe."

Woven Hand's latest explores a harder rocking, more straightforward approach that harkens back somewhat to the steely sound of Edwards' old band.

"When we play live, the mellow songs end up being heavy," he said. "So what we tried to do was just represent more what we are live than in the studio, and recorded it as live as possible to give it that feeling."

While one probably couldn't call Edwards a Luddite, there is a certain severity to his beliefs. He doesn't have much patience for those striving for perfection, and snickers at most vanities. He has a cynicism steeped in watching parishioners competitively preen to appear the holiest. Edwards feels attempts to wash sin away are foolish, and if accepting one's true nature is key, he's way ahead.

He may want you to put your hands together, but Edwards isn't looking for applause.

"I am completely depraved. I am beyond repair," he said. "There's no rules, no system, not anything that can give me any help. I am beyond hope, outside what Christ has already done for me."  "Chris Parker

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