Home Read Classic Album Review: Sixteen Horsepower | Folklore

Classic Album Review: Sixteen Horsepower | Folklore

The country-goth crew relax their Luddite ways — without updating their songcraft.


This came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


There’s keeping it real and then there’s keeping it real. But no one is more authentic than country-goth act Sixteen Horsepower. Or more old-school.

Back when they debuted in ’95, this trio of traditional troubadours reportedly refused to play on anything but antique instruments and were obsessed with recreating the doomed backwoods frenzy of folks like Dock Boggs. For their fourth studio creation Folklore, the recently reunited threesome seem to have relaxed their Luddist ways — I’m fairly sure I hear the odd electric guitar and bass amid the screeching fiddles, brooding cellos, haunting slide guitars and plucky banjos. But they haven’t updated their artistic approach much. This 10-song set is liberally peppered with tunes from when your grandpa was knee-high — and crisp production aside, even new tracks such as Hutterite Mile and Blessed Persistence sound like relics from a bygone era. Like a cross between Bauhaus and Violent Femmes, these songs are ominously dark, deliberately unvarnished and — with the exception of a jaunty retelling of The Carter Family’s Single Girl — as unremittingly bleak as a cholera outbreak. In short, Folklore is as real as real gets.