The music of David Eugene Edwards often sounds as if it were recorded in an abandoned coal mine, his distinct, mournful baritone building to a hollow, desperate howl. And although he fronted the mordant country-rock band 16 Horsepower for most of the '90s, and since 2002 has continued to create gospel-steeped, Southern-gothic Americana under the name Wovenhand, it's difficult to find a picture of him that looks like it was taken after 1930.
The man has mystique.
So it's a bit jarring when Edwards sidesteps his dark persona. "I'm not a morose individual, even though I deal with subjects that are oftentimes bleak," he says. "When people meet me for the first time they definitely have a preconceived notion of what I'm going to be like, and it's probably disappointing that I'm just a regular person." Regular, perhaps, but hardly ordinary.
The Colorado native knew from the age of 10 that he wanted to play music. As the grandson of a Church of the Nazarene preacher, he says, "I was in church all the time, three or four days a week," and most of what he heard growing up was church music. That influence blended with Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, which his parents played at home, and later with bands like The Birthday Party and Joy Division. He began playing in punk bands as a teen-ager, and quit high school to pursue music.
Edwards admits that many listeners find his music depressing. "I use a lot of minor chords which give it a melancholy feel right off the bat. All that music I listened to growing up had that kind of mode to it, which is just aesthetically what I like."
These early influences come through particularly in Ten Stones, Edwards' seventh Wovenhand record, released this year on the Sounds Familyre label. The accordion-driven, feedback-heavy stomper "White Knuckle Grip" is a dead ringer for Tender Prey-era Nick Cave. He also takes some weird turns, channeling Tom Jones' "Delilah" in a haunted cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars." Lyrically, Edwards evokes the church music of his childhood -- "Wovenhand" refers to hands folded in prayer -- often revisiting themes of sin and redemption.
While earlier albums were basically solo projects, Ten Stones was mostly recorded live with the band, in an attempt to capture their onstage chemistry. "Our live show is much more aggressive, much heavier than any of our records," he says. See for yourself on Sat., Oct. 18, when Wovenhand plays the intimate Club Café, a show organized by CP contributor Manny Theiner.
Wovenhand with Matt Bauer. 10 p.m. Sat., Oct. 18. Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $10 ($12 day of show). 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com