London Borderline

[a]16 Horsepower[/a] are here to restore your faith in country music.

[a]16 Horsepower[/a] are one of America’s great undiscovered bands. After four years struggling with a major label unable to understand their religious, psychopathic country rock, they’ve come out of the experience even stronger and with their best album to date – ‘Secret South’. As the turgid alt-country wagon rolls along unsteadily, shedding wheels with every new [a]Calexico[/a] and Smog release, [a]16 Horsepower[/a] are here to restore your faith in country music.

Centre of attention is frontman David Eugene Edwards. The son of a preacher, who honed his haunting tenor in the whitewashed chapels of the Appalachian Mountains, Edwards is an extraordinary frontman. A constant mess of twitches, stares and jerks, he hypnotises the crowd with edgy songs of darkness, redemption and rattlesnakes. The banjo-driven foot stomper ‘Clogger’ sits next to the Civil War ballad ‘Straw Foot’ while Edwards trades banjos for slide guitars for accordians.

The apocalyptic ‘Cinder Alley’ starts menacingly with a taut violin riff (played by Edwards‘ 18-year-old daughter), before exploding into a burst of slide guitars, crashing cymbals and lone-wolf howling. Like if the blind banjo-playing freak from [I]Deliverance[/I] had grown up to front The Verve. As with the majority of [a]16 Horsepower[/a]’s set tonight, it’s devastatingly heavy, haunting music that’s filled with horrendous paranoia and sexual tension. If only all church services were like this.