As Sixteen Horsepower, David Eugene Edwards helps to create music that has a fervent quality to it. I imagine that going to a live show is sort of like going to an old time relijun revival, where people in the audience stand up and scream that they've been converted and spirits are released into the night. It may not be exactly like that, but Sixteen Horsepower mixes part country, part rock, and part swamp howl into something that still manages to sound unique in a world of cross-polinations.
While the group is at work on a follow-up to last years Folklore, Jetset is releasing this huge helping of old demos and live tracks from the group. There are two batches of demo tracks, including the 6 track Night Owl Session from 1993 and the 6 track Kerr Macy Session from 1994. In addition, there's an early live show from 1994, recorded at the Mercury Cafe in Denver Colorado.
Listening to the tracks on the release, it's easy to hear that the vision for the group seemed to be almost fully-formed even during their early days. The disc opens with a twangy mouth harp on "American Wheeze" and soon swaggers into a sort of ramshackle accordian stomper that's absolutely infectious while at the same time breathing with the passion of a street corner preacher. "Prison Shoe Romp" seems to draw a bit of inspiration from the man in black himself, Johnny Cash, as it paints a bleak picture over more fevered instrumentation. The only thing breaking up the demos are some really small snippet interviews that are a little bit odd in their inclusion upon first listen (especially the Westwood one, which references David Eugene Edwards but barely lets him say anything).
Listening to the live show makes a good point for the group needing to be seen in person, as the songs translate almost perfectly to the setting and Eugene's holler-style vocals are even more wild-eyed and emotive. With only one song appearing twice on the entire release ("American Wheeze"), and that in fairly different forms, it's also a disc that has a good amount of variety considering all the material came from a time period of just over a year early on in the band history. In the ten years that they've been a group, they haven't made any real dramatic changes in styles, but they've put out a solid batch of releases that are good and often great. If you've found yourself interested in their releases to date and wondered how they started off, this is one to seek out.