16 Horsepower Secret South

16 Horsepower Secret South
With countless artists now basing their work on the tones and messages of early country and folk recordings, it's been easy to forget the importance of 16 Horsepower in establishing that movement in the mid-'90s. Led by singer/guitarist David Eugene Edwards, the band were far from traditionalists, as evidenced by their first two releases on A&M Records, which thoroughly modernized the spirits of Dock Boggs and the Carter Family. But it was Edwards' Old Testament-infused delivery that proved most affecting, and was possibly too much for a major label to take. Secret South, the band's third effort, was originally released in 2000 on Razor & Tie, but disappeared soon after, prompting Edwards to launch his solo career under the name Wovenhand. Now thankfully rescued, Secret South can be fully appreciated as the band's masterpiece. Edwards' doomsday prophecies never seemed closer at hand than on tracks like "Clogger" and "Burning Bush," while excellent covers of "Wayfaring Stranger" and Dylan's "Nobody 'Cept You" show how the band's range was beginning to expand. In fact, nothing about Secret South sounds dated, and if it inspires 16 Horsepower to reform, then credit the impeccable taste of Jello Biafra and the rest of the AT staff. (Alternative Tentacles)