The Black Soul Choir

“every man is evil, yes an every man a liar
an unashamed with wicked tongues
sing in the black soul choir”

yeh, so this here post has been a long time comin’ friends and no mistakin’. Randy, lord love him, well he loves himself some ZZ Top, and Skynyrd. Y’know? A bit o’that old classic rock type deal. The jazz kinda frightens and confuses him a little bit and he never could get along with Sixteen Horsepower neither. I say it’s high time that changed. He does at least have the good grace to like the tune from which this here post took it’s name and which the cheery lyric up there comes from. He calls it their ‘pop hit’ and that ought to give you a clue as to the bible black nature of what we dealin’ with here if y’all ain’t familiar. Some of you will be aware of Brother Randy’s late damascene conversion to the mighty Slim Cessna’s Auto Club some time last year and I reckon he’s ready now to move on over to the darkside. Y’see Slim and 16 hp’s David Eugene Edwards served briefly together in a band called The Denver Gentlemen which while never succesful at the time seems to have kicked off a whole scene of people doing stuff in a similar vein. When they left it seems Slim took all the humour with him and Edwards the existential angst. I gots to say that while The Auto Club are often playful and less than serious 16 horsepower’s music rarely admits of any light or human joy. Edwards was raised up the son of a holiness preacher and his world is one of dread, guilt, redemption and barely, if at all, concealed violence. A lot of the time he sings as if spoiling for a fight. With you, characters in the songs, himself, the whole damn world. While he sometimes is the preacher he mostly come across more truly as the murderer, it’s powerful stuff. He weren’t never given to cracking too many jokes on stage.

american wheeze

First time I ever saw them was a sweltering night and I swear the temperature dropped when that ol’ squeezebox of his started wheezin’. Their first album was called Sackcloth and Ashes appropriately enough and a guest on it was Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes. This has always made a bunch of sense to me because if the Femmes’ ‘Country Death Song’ was ever to become a band then it’d be 16 horsepower. Are you seein’ what I say here friends? Thing is, for all the love of older instruments and language and a general 19th century frontier feel to things, one thing they surely ain’t is any type of revivalists for older forms or traditionalists. Like the Violent Femmes or The Gun Club it’s just a source that feeds their own music, imagine Splinters without the vocal and it’s basically a post-rock record.

Handily for our cause, last month saw the release of best of/rarities double set Yours Truly. One disc of favourites and one of old b-sides and obscurities and such an it kicks off with ‘Black Soul Choir’. Well now, what we have here fer yer lissenin’ pleasure is their first and last single and a couple of live readings. Shametown was the first single, is pretty obscure and doesn’t make it onto ‘Yours Truly’, it has their early sound and would suggest that alongside his love of Joy Division, Edwards also had a Bunnymen record or two. Splinters was their last and is an epic thing of their own making, the version of heel on the shovel is from ‘Olden’ and ‘For Heaven’s Sake’ is the one off live album ‘Hoarse’ ‘cos I think it’s the best. Your love for them begins here.

shametown

splinters

heel on the shovel (live 1994)

for heaven’s sake (live)

~ by Mumblin' Earl on October 1, 2011.

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