Review Summary: 16 Horsepower continue to make their unique sound on their third quality record, keeping their creative flame very well lit.
When thought of as a genre, country seems to have a blackened eye given to itself by some of its more well known artists that give the impression that they are its only true players. Many people are turned off by the vocals and harmonies of the Dixie Chicks, or perhaps they dislike the America-loving approach brought on by Toby Keith. Whatever reason people have for dismissing an entire genre based on 2 or 3 mainstream artists can simply not be applied to 16 Horsepower, a band that is labeled country but really is so much more than that. Making a mix of country, blues, bluegrass, and the occasional drop of rock and roll, the band makes this unique sound that is very difficult to dislike.
, the band's first release on indie label Razor & Tie consists of the formula so tested with 16 Horsepower releases, a work of mixed production, also combining modern musical setups with more lesser used instruments. This works because it shows that the band can make music like everyone else, but it chooses to be creative and through seldom utilized instruments, adapts a sound that is unknown, melodic, and can only be distinguished as 16 Horsepower.
Change in production value on the same disc? Look no further than the first two tracks of the album. One of the best tunes of the album is the first track. A song which will probably be recalled when thinking of the band's best cuts, Clogger
begins with fuzz bass notes before the rest of the band comes in and is anchored by David Eugene Edwards' emotional voice. Not only do the vocals guide this piece, the guitar parts he also puts down make the song very exciting, bridging the song using an electric. This song is very much alive and clearly produced, but the energy and clarity do not last. Enter the next track, Wayfaring Stranger
which is one of the many traditional songs 16 Horsepower performs. Substituting a banjo for guitar and leaving out the rhythm section; the mood is changed from alive and well to stripped down and consisting of Edwards playing his banjo solo with his lower sounding voice, the song breaks in the middle to what sounds like open air in the country and allows the mood to set in. Though the production and setup differ highly from this and Clogger
, they both are very good tracks though the make up is different.
What makes this album is also the variation in driving instruments used in each song. Silver Saddle
, for instance, is a acoustic/piano song which for the most part is just that. The beginning organ sends out a mood that is often attempted to be conveyed by folk artists, but is really happening in this track. Eventually organ is dismissed and replaced by piano which makes the music seem more real and gives Edwards something to deliver his low sounding sung parts. Just Like Birds
plays opposite to this, being delivered on a platform of fiddle and piano with higher sounding vocals. If the song were able to look in a pond or any body of water, it would see Silver Saddle
staring back at it. The ripples of the water distort it from being a replica, this added with the fact that it is closer to Earth .
This album's shortcomings can be traced to the make of it. The 11 songs just don't seem to pick up or develop any flow. Granted there is nothing wrong with songs being different and not flowing, it seems to me that a band such as 16 Horsepower would get the best out of their sound if it were a continuous flow. That sentence is no call for them to record a 40 minute song with the same setup throughout, nor is it saying the band can't make a singles collection. While the songs may be quality and use a variety of sounds throughout
is an accomplishment for the band, though not the breakthrough they will later make with Folklure
. The band has a niche of making their unique sound in a variety of ways and this is shown on this work. The music is very enjoyable but at times it seems too varied for its own good, not allowing the music to be a continuous body of work. Despite this the band rolls on, employing their individual sound and becoming a showcase country band, weather anyone notices or not.