Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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

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