288. Secret South – 16 Horsepower


16 Horsepower

Someday, someone really needs to explain to me why 16 Horsepower was not one of the biggest bands in the world!

For most of the 1990’s and half of the 2000’s there was an amazing band that fused country instrumentation with rock and alternative arrangements and a deeply troubling and redemptive lyrical content. Deep, conflicted and utterly real and authentic. There is never a point in which the listener does not believe every word or every note that came from the speakers.

Led by David Eugene Edwards (not the CCM alternative singer-songwriter from the early 80’s) the band formed in Los Angeles bus soon centered in Denver, CO. The name derived from the number of horses needed in the old west to draw a coffin of a beloved to a graveyard. The dark and foreboding name matched the musical and lyrical compositions.

Perhaps their lack of ultimate success came as the result that popular bands usually do not specialize in the playing of the banjo, concertina, hurdy gurdy, lap steel and double bass. But these guys do not sound like a southern gospel quartet or bluegrass band, they rock with a creative furor and passionate drive. The tunes are dark and heavy and loaded with conflict, confessions and grace.

Secret South is the 4th full length release and nearly flawless from beginning to end. Edwards’ voice is a unique cross between Russ Taff’s gospel blues and Nick Cave or Mike Scott of the Waterboys. Droning at times and passionate and forceful at others. Also here his preaching grandfather’s influence is most felt. There are so many pictures of redemption and the feel of a western rider evangelist.

Though there are many great original compositions that could be named here it is a cover of the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger” that haunts the listener well after it ends. Like this classic gospel tune the album uses Old testament Biblical imagery like dry bones and waters parting to paint a picture of Christ’s repemptive work in the midst of a dark and longing heart.

The band deserved better, especially from the Christian music fans that should heave easily recognized the obvious imagery and also should have gloried in the fact the band was taking that message into the darkest corners; a goal of many of the great bands in CCM.

  1. Alex
    November 10, 2010 at 3:55 am

    My favourite album by David Eugene Edwards…so many tremendous songs. I particularly like “Praying Arm Lane” and the Bob Dylan cover of “Nobody ‘Cept You”.

  2. Tim
    August 11, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I told my brother about this countdown, and he, who doesn’t listen to a ton of Christian music, immediately said, “Well, if it doesn’t have Secret South by 16 Horsepower on it, it’s not a good list.” Of all the albums he could have mentioned, this one stood out to him as one of the best ever. I think that says a lot.

  3. Kit
    November 29, 2011 at 6:56 am

    I tend to consider this to be the best 16HP release. David Eugene Edwards is even better in a live setting. I did manage to see Woven Hand, but I wish I could have seen 16HP.

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