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Music / 16 Horsepower

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Ca. 2002.

Come and sing us down,
give our conscience a poundin'.
Come an' shake our ground, Lord,
with the sound of Heaven's houndin'.

Picture in your mind: In some forsaken corner of the American West, under a sky black with storm clouds, a man rides across the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. He has a gun on his hip and a Bible in his saddlebag. He's pushing his horse to its absolute limit, but it's not clear why he's in such a hurry — whether he's the pursuer or the pursued, fleeing the law or God himself.

That, in a nutshell, is what 16 Horsepower sounds like: Gothic Country Music, with influences from bluegrass, European folk, and alternative country. The band played once in 1992 in Los Angeles, then reformed in Denver, Colorado. Throughout the '90s, they made a name for themselves in the Denver music scene and in Europe, with music ranging from haunting to apocalyptic, and lyrics focusing on the fear of God, wrongdoing, and redemption. In the '00s, they began drifting apart and focusing on side projects; in 2005, they officially disbanded.

Post break-up, David Eugene Edwards focused on his musical project Woven Hand (which has become a Spiritual Successor to 16HP). Pascal Humbert started the band Lilium with help from Jean-Yves Tola, then Pascal joined Woven Hand in 2007.

The roster was somewhat fluid, but the core members were:

  • David Eugene Edwards: Lead vocals, guitar, banjo, Chemnitzer concertina and / or bandoneon, hurdy-gurdy, lap steel guitar
  • Jean-Yves Tola: Drums, vocals
  • Pascal Humbert: Bass, guitar, vocals


  • 16 Horsepower EP (1995)
  • Sackcloth 'n' Ashes (1996)
  • Low Estate (1997)
  • Secret South (2000)
  • Hoarse (2000): A live album.
  • Folklore (2002)
  • Olden (2003): A compilation of the band's early demos.
  • Live March 2001 (2008): Another live album.

Provides examples of:

  • Album Title Drop: On Secret South.
  • Bawdy Song: "Ruthie Lingle" and "Hang My Teeth on Your Door." Incidentally the latter is one of the few 16HP songs not penned by DEE.
  • Christian Rock: They basically call into question the entire practice of labeling bands by ideology. To wit: David Eugene Edwards, the primary songwriter, is a devout Christian, and this comes across very clearly in his lyrics. None of the other band members share his beliefs. Since they never sought out the "Christian music" distribution channels, their music could not be found in Christian music stores — yet 16HP's music was more explicitly Christian themed than just about anything that could be found in the Christian stores.
  • Cover Album: Folklore only had two original songs. The rest of the tracks are covers of Hank Williams, the Carter Family, and various traditional songs. (American, French, Hungarian, Tuvan, etc.)
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: Their version of "Bad Moon Rising."
  • Drone of Dread: When Edwards breaks out his squeezebox, the song will either be even more ominous than 16HP's usual fare, or it will be the most upbeat song on the entire album.
  • French Accordion: When they covered a traditional French song, "La Robe a Parasol", their guitarist played Chemnitzer concertina (an instrument related to the accordion) instead of guitar. As a whole, the song is much more upbeat than the band's usual fare.
  • Good Is Not Nice: DEE's lyrics hew very close to The Bible, so God is portrayed as both supremely good and (per fan consensus) scary as hell.
  • Precision F-Strike: DEE says "fucking" twice on Sackcloth 'n' Ashes, and nowhere else.
  • Reviewer Stock Phrases: Did you know that David Eugene Edwards is the grandson of a fire and brimstone Nazarene preacher? Good luck finding a 16HP album review that doesn't bring it up.
  • Soprano and Gravel: DEE and Pascal Humbert harmonize to this effect on a few songs from Low Estate.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: David Eugene Edwards. A Netherlands TV documentary, ostensibly about the band, focused on DEE's home life and never gave the other members a single chance to speak.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Some songs on the early albums come across rather stream of consciousness, where individual verses may make perfect sense, but don't follow at all from the rest of the song.