16 Horsepower Biography

This Denver, Colorado, USA-based trio’s brooding, god-fearingly religious songs are reminiscent of the gothic tones of Nick Cave and Gun CluVocalist and lyricist David Eugene Edwards sings his tales of sin and redemption against a stripped down but powerful acoustic backdrop. The grandson of a travelling Nazarene preacher and a committed Christian, Edwards grew up listening to Old Testament tales of damnation and hellfire, and formed 16 Horsepower in 1992 to explore his fascination with these religious demons. He had previously played with the Denver Gentlemen, before a chance meeting with Jean-Yves Tola, drummer with exiled French alternative rockers Passion Fodder, and his bandmate Pascal Humbert, led to the birth of 16 Horsepower. Briefly based in Los Angeles, California, Humbert left the band when Edwards and Tola returned to Denver, and was replaced by double bass player Keven Soll. After two singles on the Ricochet label the band signed a contract with A&M Records. Their breakthrough Haw EP was released in November 1995, the title track a doom-laden blues characteristic of Edwards’ apocalyptic obsessions. The acclaimed debut Sackcloth ‘N’ Ashes was originally released in America in February 1996. The album featured the fiddle-playing of Edwards’ soulmate, Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, which, alongside the band’s deliberately old-fashioned instrumentation (bandonion, banjos, double bass, accordions), reinforced the archaic nature of Edwards’ lyrics. The album was released in the UK in 1997 with ‘Haw’ added to the track listing, as the band toured their powerful live show around Europe and America.

A new line-up was announced, with the return of Humbert on bass and Jeffrey-Paul Norlander (ex-Denver Gentlemen) on guitar and fiddle. Their follow-up album Low Estate was produced by John Parish (PJ Harvey collaborator), with tracks of the calibre of ‘Brimstone Rock’ and ‘For Heaven’s Sake’ providing further testament to Edwards’ powerful vision. The band’s guitar technician, Steve Taylor, became a full-time member shortly after the album’s January 1998 US release, but Norlander left the band in May. The new line-up found a more sympathetic home on the German independent, Glitterhouse Records, reflecting the fact that their albums have always sold better in Europe. The band’s third album, Secret South, was released in early 2000, and was followed by the explosive live document Hoarse. A stripped-down line-up featuring the original trio of Edwards, Tola and Humbert recorded the new studio album, Folklore, which was released in summer 2002. The album included cover versions of four traditional songs, including the Carter Family favourite ‘Single Girl’. Tola and Humbert also record under the Lilium moniker, while Edwards is the guiding force behind Woven Hand.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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