The list of alt-country gods usually begins with Uncle Tupelo, Old 97’s and Whiseytown, but 16 Horsepower belong in the pantheon too. Their moody, mythological take on old weird America remains haunting and poetic. Though singer-songwriter David Eugene Edwards has moved on to another successful stint in the great Woven Wand, 16 Horsepower still resonates. Secret South, the band’s third record, was originally released in 2000, and although its rerelease is short on extras, it’s huge as a reminder of the band’s majestic output.
“Burning Bush” and “Wayfaring Stranger” hold up the best, as does the unclassifiable “Praying Arm Lane” and “Strawfoot,” both of which sound like slices from a new myth. The cover of Dylan’s “Nobody ‘Cept You” works as well, tapping into the often psalm-like resonance of his love songs.
Woven Wand has allowed David Eugene Edwards to expand on themes developed here, and his new music is so good it makes no sense to live in his past. But Secret South shows a band at its peak, and it is right and righteous to have the chance to go back and refresh our collective memory of just how good 16 Horsepower truly was.