Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Speck Mountain Takes the Stage with NPR's Second Stage

While the duo's debut release, Summer Above, has more of an innocent vibe, their newest album, Some Sweet Relief is more textured and mysterious than its predecessor and begs to be unpacked...The resulting album is dreamy, impressionistic, and ambient. Like sunlight shining through a gauzy curtain, Balabanian's rich vocals are simultaneously hazy, distant and piercing. Click Here to Read More..

Pitchfork Digs The Handsome Family

Stephen Deusner of Pitchfork says the Handsome Family's "new songs are so full of woodsy imagery that they make Neko Case seem urbane...a testament both to Rennie's skillful threading of words into images and Brett's sensitive translation of words on a page into vocals."
Rather than dwell on country gothic doom and despair, they've recorded all manner of love songs-- odes to sex, devotion, redemption, sacrifice, New Mexico, and more sex-- that are only slightly sunnier than their usual fare. But don't expect corny sentiments even from a song called "Love Is Like". Click Here to Read More..

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tim Hinely BLURTS About Honey Moon

Since the release of their debut record in 1995 (Odessa) the Handsome Family (married couple Brett and Rennie Sparks) have explored the depths of the human soul with songs about drifters, murderers, and even Aunt Barbara "who went crazy in the 70's, wrote poems to Jimmy Carter but forgot to feed her kids" (from "Lake Geneva on 1996's Milk and Scissors) and on this, record #8, they do not disappoint. This record was written to celebrate their 20 years of marriage and as someone who has been married for not even half that long I toast them for their longevity - and the music, too. The band's music has been called Gothic Americana and that seems as good a place to start as any, Brett writes the music and sings most of the sings while Rennie writes the lyrics (she doesn't forget the dark humor) and they have rounded up a batch of terrific musicians in their adopted hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico (where they moved to several years ago after many years in Chicago).

The songs on Honey Moon are just a gorgeously haunting as anything they have done previously. The opener "Linger, Let Me Linger" adds some lovely cello to the proceedings (which already include Brett's rich baritone) while "Little Sparrows' adds some zippy pedal steel which gives it a completely different feel. "When You Whispered" is pure Carter Family country and the nearly perfect, "A Thousand Diamond Rings" is the record's best song (that has a murky, Calexico-ish feel to it but these guys were doing this stuff long before Calexico). Yet another terrific chapter in a book that I hope these guys never finish.

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Billboard Endorses Honey Moon

Is there an act more inscrutable than Albuquerque's Handsome Family, alt-country's equivalent of the famous Grant Wood painting "American Gothic"? Husband-and-wife team Brett and Rennie Sparks hole up in their garage studio for long stretches, surfacing publicly every few years with their latest recording to accept the kudos of Americana aficionados everywhere, then retreat once more to their solitude. The music on their eighth studio album since forming in '93—a mélange of classic-era Nashville ("Wild Wood"), '50s Tin Pan Alley and doo-wop ("Linger, Let Me Linger"), and Memphis soul balladry ("My Friend")—is equally veiled, Brett warbling Rennie's pastoral lyrics about lingering kisses, lonely songbirds and reverse-anthropomorphism in an expressive baritone equal parts George Jones and Bing Crosby. Who are these people, you wonder? Though answers don't come easily, the process of getting to know them is fascinating nonetheless.—Fred Mills Click Here to Read More..

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Handsome Family Teaches Word Magazine About Romance...Handsome Style

There's a good lesson to be learned about romance from the Handsome Family's husband-and-wife team of Brett and Rennie Sparks. Take My Friend, a brilliantly low-key lament that swings slowly across the front third of the reord. If you tilt your head back and close your eyes you'll believe you've sat on a bench outside a white wooden church somewhere in Macon County. Inside, just through that crack in the door, Brett's stood in the pulpit dressed in robes that have seen many, many better days, he's got three days' growth and the smell of raw gin on his breath. Rennie's sat at the organ, looking at her husband, wondering why no one else can see the good in him.

I know, it's ludicrous. For a start, Rennie writes the words and plays no instruments, but that's the sort of dramatic power that they bring to their songs. Lots of people swear that they live inside their material, but The Handsome Family can feel like they've actually been cast in the movie of their songs and have been method acting like their lives depended on it ever since... Click Here to Read More..

The Handsome Family Makes The Cut With Uncut

It's safe to say that Albuquerque's Brett and Rennie Sparks, aka The Handsome Family, have never really embraced the love song. Death, disease, madness? Sure. But the idea of country's darkest duo falling into the tender trap seems way outside their remit. Yet that's exactly what they've now done, partly to mark their 20th anniversary and partly due to a particular luminous epiphany that Rennie had while listening to The Platters on a mountain range in New Zealand. That said, there may be no corpses or fathomless wells on Honey Moon, but this is hardly, lyrically at least, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton... Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Oprah Takes Honey Moon with The Handsome Family

Featured in the May issue of O (Oprah) Magazine, Richard Gehr says this of The Handsome Family's upcoming album, "Though the Handsomes draw on Depression-era strains of folk music, Honey Moon is sensual and celebratory...May their musical honeymoon never end." Amen to that. Click Here to Read More..