While just about everyone else in the world right now seems obsessed with saving 'rock and roll," Sixteen Horsepower could most likely give a rats ass. Fronted by lead man David Eugene Edwards, the band plays dark alley revivalist country tinged with a touch of gritty rock. After releasing three excellent albums and touring all over the country numerous times in the span of just over 4 years, they decided to take a bit of a breather, and Folklore is the result of that time off, a fresh album that treads familiar ground, but still breaths with a new life.
Part of the reason that the album feels slightly different is that the majority of the release has been recorded with acoustic instruments. Upright bass, jangly guitar, percussion, and all kinds of other organic instrumentation make appearances and provide the bulk of the sound, but it's far from being minimal or stark. Born the grandson of a hardcore Nazarene preacher (think fire and brimstone), Edwards voice seems to channel much of that fervor, as he sings songs of life, death, religion, dark obsessions, and redemption.
"Hutterite Mile" opens the disc with muffled percussion and a plucked acoustic guitar melody while stabs of violin add a nice dynamic while Edwards sings his tale of wandering lost. Eventually, the track builds up into something fairly lush, an old organ creeping in and the violin adds a harmonizing melody of its own. "Outlaw Song" takes a slightly less dark road, mixing banjo and more acoustic guitar while "Blessed Persistence" adds a dusty western guitar strum to a repetitive bassline on a track which literally builds from only two elements into a lush, dark-western track that has a very cinematic feel.
Not afraid to experiment a bit, "Horse Head Fiddle adds tabla for percussion and other middle-eastern elements for a spaced-out, otherworldly track that reminds me of something off Tanakh's recent Villa Claustrophobia album. Not afraid to let a silly side show a bit, the album ends with the raucous "La Robe a Parasol," in which several different singers ramble out the lyrics in French and an accordian adds an appropriate touch. Although the group has a strong underground following, this is a release that would most likely appeal to everyone from fans of Will Oldham and Palace Music to everyone who bought the recent Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and wanted to branch out a bit into some slightly (but still thematically similar) territory. Another solid release for the group.