Monday, January 09, 2012

16 Horsepower

Alright, here we are with the first post of the year, and instead of starting with the letter A, I decided to do what any psychotic moron would do and start with numbers.

So anyone who knows me well enough knows I have a thing for what's lovingly known as "Southern Gothic Americana"... such as the likes of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.  Well, it came as a shock to me when a new (at the time) friend of mine told me about a band called 16 Horsepower (written with the number, not spelled out... us fans are rather picky about that) and it was basically "my type of music" through and through.

In fact, to be even more ironic, this new-found band had actually toured with The Bad Seeds, as well as a few other bands I know and love.  Upon hearing the music and reading the Wikipedia page for 16 Horsepower, my initial response to the poor girl that told me about them was "Why the hell didn't you tell me about this band before?!"  Sure, I didn't care that I had just recently met her.  That didn't matter.  Someone should have told me about them long before.

"That road I seen the devil stalking
Dealin' only with the dyin'"

16 Horsepower blends together fragments of traditional bluegrass with Gypsy folk music and then smashes it through your ears with a distortion of electric country.  That's about the best I can do to describe it... I like to say that it evokes a mental image of dust bowl era America, only a bit more violent and electric.


I am not going to go too into detail on the band's history... Mostly because I don't know a whole lot, and partly because I don't think there's all that much to know.  Lead vocalist / songwriter David Eugene Edwards seems to have been the main driving force behind not only the band, but much of the sound as well.  Raised by his grandfather, a Nazarene preacher, Edwards' lyrics tended to steer towards a dark and rather menacing form of religious outlook, not too far from what you'd have heard at an early 1900's big tent revival.  While some people would say this would make them a "Christian band," 16 Horsepower never made any deal out of it, and I doubt most people even noticed.

"Coal Black Horses"

Musically, the band made an extravagant use of a wide variety of instruments, from electric guitars and keyboards, to banjos, mandolins, and even an old-fashioned squeezebox.

"American Wheeze" (Live)

I truly don't know how to properly categorize this band... especially their earlier work.  Some might say "Gypsy rock" but I think that actually is too narrow a definition.  As time went on though, folk and gospel music began to take over a bit more.  Their last few albums were quite a bit more mellow, but the band still had their uniquely addictive sound and style.

"Wayfaring Stranger"

After four studio albums and a couple compilations, the band officially disbanded, Edwards and a few other members going on to form a very similar band called Woven Hand, who have recently toured with yet another favourite band of mine, Tool.

"The wind blows like the devil when it blows
An' a boy grows up an' like the wind he goes

16 Horsepower is one of those rare bands... Unlike any other and not really fitting in with what most people would consider "popular."  Unknown and under-appreciated, I guess it's truly what you'd call "underground."

"Black Soul Choir"

I really doubt many people will ever even hear of this band, but I find it hard to believe that anyone who does hear them could ever dislike them.  They're just too addictive and brilliant to dismiss.

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