The Denver music scene received a blow two weeks ago when longtime critics’ favorite 16 Horsepower announced its breakup. In a terse message on the band’s website, the members attribute the group’s demise to “an accumulation of differences, mostly political and spiritual (that) separates us today and prevents us from honestly going any further.ï¿½? The message notes that “we will remain active as Lilium and Woven Hand,ï¿½? the side projects of bassist Pascal Humbert and drummer Jean-Yves Tola, and frontman David Eugene Edwards, respectively.
In a new interview, Jean-Yves Tola hints that the breakup was in part attributable to a disagreement over Edwards’ increasing reliance on religious content in 16 Horsepower songs. Edwards, the grandson of a Nazarene preacher, has long used harrowing religious imagery in the lyrics he writes for 16 Horsepower and Woven Hand.
Fans wanting to relive the legacy of 16 Horsepower can pick up a copy of 16HP, a double DVD featuring live concert footage and interviews that Smooch Records recently released. Smooch will also begin to reissue the back catalogue of 16 Horsepower records “as it becomes legally available,ï¿½? according to Smooch’s Andrew Murphy.
And despite the band’s demise, its music remains as riveting as ever. 16 Horsepower’s final studio album, 2002’s Folklore, could serve as the soundtrack to the bleakest Western ever made. Lovers deceive, resentments smolder, fatigue and disillusion set in, and as David Eugene Edwards sings of these occurrences in haunting tones over spare, brooding instrumentation, it’s almost possible to hear tumbleweeds rolling by in the middle distance. Edwards’ voice often quavers on the verge of a sob, though he’d never do something so unbecoming to a cowboy. Recorded at producer Bob Ferbrache’s Denver studio, Folklore is an homage to many of the rootsy influences that were apparent on the band’s six previous albums. Alongside four stellar originals are covers of “Alone And Forsakenï¿½? by Hank Williams, “Single Girlï¿½? by the Carter Family, and the traditional folksongs “Outlaw Song,ï¿½? “Horse Head Fiddle,ï¿½? and “Sinnermanï¿½? from Hungary, Tuva, and the U.S., respectively.
16 Horsepower was a treasure: Its music delved the West’s heart of darkness for over a decade, and its contributions to the Denver music scene will be missed.