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16 Horsepower - Olden

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 25 / 10 / 2003

16 Horsepower - Olden
Label: Glitterhouse Records
Format: CD


Outstanding rarities collection from long-serving Denver-based alt. rock trio, Sixteen Horsepower, whose unique fusion of punk, country and blues, is constantly passionate

A&M records always seemed an odd home for Sixteen Horsepower. The band’s fusion of punk, country and blues with lyrics concerning, in the main part, death, love and religion was at odds with other A&M acts (Can’t imagine Sting or Sheryl Crow covering any Sixteen Horsepower songs; might be interesting though).After releasing two albums for their former label Sixteen Horsepower signed to Glitterhouse Records in early 2000 which is the label that they maybe should have signed with from day one. The trio is led by David Eugene Edwards who handles vocals, bandoneon (like an accordion apparently), guitar and banjo, and who is the group’s main songwriter. On the tracks compiled on this release Edwards is joined by Keven Soll on bass and vocals and Jean-Yves Tola on drums. The band was formed in 1992 and has enjoyed an ever increasing cult following since. The intensity of Edwards' vocals (compared to a cross between Jeff Buckley and Nick Cave which isn’t far off the mark at times) has made the band difficult to ignore. ‘Olden’ is not, however, the follow up to ‘Folklore’ (the fifth and arguably the band’s best album to date) which was released in 2002. This album is made up of six tracks from 1993 called The Night Owl Sessions, six tracks from 1994 now labelled The Kerr Macy Sessions plus another six tracks from a live show in October 1994 at the Mercury Café in Denver. Some of the songs are the original versions of what are now regarded as early Sixteen Horsepower classics like ‘American Wheeze’ which appears here in totally different forms from both sessions. This track, which was finally released on the ‘Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes’ album, has always been a favourite and it’s interesting to hear how the song evolved, the 1994 version here is obviously the one closest to the final take on ‘’Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes’. Listening to the raw versions of these original songs on offer here it’s not hard to see that it wasn’t such a giant step that the band made from the sound they produced in the beginning of their careers to that of the covers of traditional songs they made on ‘Folklore’. That Appalachian sound has always been there. The more considered sounds the band has now embraced seem like a natural progression now that we have had a chance to hear these demos. Although it is fascinating to hear the band in their early stages, and the more I listen to this album the more it gets under my skin, it’s the live tracks here that are the biggest surprise. The band is obviously as accomplished on the stage as they are in the studio and at such an early stage of their career the live tracks are much better than I expected. The live versions of ‘Dead Run’ and ‘Sac Of Religion’ , both from the album ‘Low Estate’ are more desperate, more, yes, I’m going to use that word again, intense than the studio versions. And that, for me, is what Sixteen Horsepower are all about. The passion and emotion the band put into their music give them the edge over other bands. There are two short interview clips included in this CD. One placed at the end of each session’s six tracks. I’ve heard complaints that these clips shed no light on the band and the CD would be better off without them. Apart from where they are on the album (the end or beginning might have been a better place for them) I find them interesting. What David E. Edwards states in the first clip is true, “There is intensity to it, whether you like it or not it’s going to affect you in some way… We’ve not a band that you’d have play at a party”. Edwards is right, you wouldn’t want to play Sixteen Horsepower at a party but I’ve listened to this collection at different times of the day and in different situations and it’s never failed to have an effect on me. The eeriness in the instrumentation and in Edwards vocals is spine tingling. Maybe it’s because of the sad passing of Joe Strummer but I can’t listen to these tracks without the Clash coming to mind. Although the sounds Sixteen Horsepower are now producing are far removed from those of the Clash there is something that connects these early songs to those of Strummer and co. and that is the passion with a capital P which both bands had in abundance.

Track Listing:-
1 American Wheeze (Night Owl Session)
2 Coal Black Horses (Night Owl Session)
3 Scrawled in Sap (Night Owl Session)
4 Prison Shoe Romp (Night Owl Session)
5 I Seen What I Saw (Night Owl Session)
6 Neck on the New Blade (Night Owl Session)
7 Interview I (Night Owl Session)
8 South Pennsylvania Waltz (Kerr Macy Session)
9 My Narrow Mind (Kerr Macy Session)
10 American Wheeze (Kerr Macy Session)
11 Shametown (Kerr Macy Session)
12 Train Serenade (Kerr Macy Session)
13 Strong Man (Kerr Macy Session)
14 Interview II (Kerr Macy Session)
15 Slow Guilt Trot (Live in Denver)
16 Low Estate (Live in Denver)
17 Pure Clob Road (Live in Denver)
18 Heel on the Shovel (Live in Denver)
19 Sac of Religion (Live in Denver)
20 Dead Run (Live in Denver)

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Interview (2008)
16 Horsepower - Interview
David Eugene Edwards is the former lead singer with the much acclaimed 16 Horsepower, and currently the front man with Woven Hand. John Clarkson talks to him about Woven Hand's just released fifth album ,his musical career and the srongh biblical influences on it


16HP (2005)
16 Horsepower - 16HP
Sixteen Horsepower recently announced that they were breaking up after 13 years together. Shortly before disbanding, they released '16HP', a double DVD. Malcolm Carter writes about what has sadly become their obituary

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