Sounds like … truly alternative folk-rock with echoes of T Bone Burnett, Nick Cave, Vigilantes of Love, The Call, and David Bowie.
At a glance … Ten Stones is more accessible than most other albums by David Eugene Edwards (as Wovenhand or 16 Horsepower), thanks to stronger melodies, increased stylistic variation, and haunting-yet-reverent lyricism clearly derived from the artist's Christian faith.
Words like "unique" and "original" don't apply to most artists these days, Christian or otherwise, but it certainly describes the work of David Eugene Edwards. As the creative force that drives Wovenhand, his sound is not easily categorized. "Alternative," yes, but in a stark and haunting way that's in the same family as Nick Cave, only much more reverent and inoffensive as an expression of Christianity. It's been described as "gothic folk," but I imagine it as the sort of thing that 13th century monks might have flagellated to—at least previous albums.
Ten Stones bears Edwards' unmistakable musical stamp, yet it could also be his most accessible effort to date (though I confess I've not heard every album released by Wovenhand or Edwards' other band, 16 Horsepower). "The Beautiful Axe" sounds more like The Call or early U2 at their most alternative, and even expresses joy (gasp!) when looking forward to Kingdom Come—"He did ascend away to prepare a place/Let the sound together hold you/To the humble he has given grace/From the proud he hides his face." Likewise, with a sound reminiscent of Vigilantes of Love, "Not One Stone" sounds relatively cheery for Edwards as he reflects on Christ's sacrifice and sovereignty. And with "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," he embraces lounge jazz feel (as only he can) for what seems to be a love song to God—"I who was lost and lonely, believing life was only a bitter tragic joke/Have found with you the meaning of existence, oh my love."
Make no mistake, Edwards still sounds dark; just not as dark. The mix is cleaner and thus the lyrics are easier to hear, though not always easy to decipher. "Horsetail" is more in step with Edwards' past work, that it clearly references John 6:44-45, and "Kingdom of Ice" would be similarly confusing without a previous understanding of Job 39.
Edwards' music is admittedly an acquired taste that many will find somewhat creepy sounding (especially those who solely listen to the narrow scope of Christian AC pop). However, there's something strangely compelling and mesmerizing about Wovenhand for those of us who enjoy faith-inspired music that's outside the box. That said, while I've always admired Edwards' work, this time I can confidently declare that Ten Stones is unique and enjoyable, something I'd want to revisit again and again. I'm hoping this album reflects Edwards' new course.
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