The Handsomes are one of those bands that feel so synonymous with what the americana genre means to me I feel they should be on the front of textbooks, with that rich combination of melody, atmosphere and poetry they do so well. One of my favourite gig memories ever was them singing ‘So Much Wine’ in Manchester shortly after sharing pictures with the audience of cats being dressed up to look like grandmothers, Sherlock Holmes, etc. The lyrics are as memorable as any you’re likely to hear: “when you fell asleep with blood on your teeth I got in my car and drove away”. The song makes me want to drink so much wine every time I hear it.
November’s issue of Uncut Magazine has got a free cover CD which features some of Jeff Tweedy’s favourite artists covering Wilco songs. The album includes covers by artists such as Kurt Vile, Sharon Van Etten, Low, Parquet Courts and Courtney Barnett and the always superb Handsome Family who have recorded a cover of Wilco’s ‘Capitol City’, from their album ‘The Whole Love’. Nothing will beat Rennie’s pictures of dressed-up cats but still.. Have a listen below.
The last time the Handsome Family visited these shores they played the Grade II listed Hackney Round Chapel, an appropriate venue for their 20 year celebration of the ‘Through The Trees’ album. Tonight’s end-of-tour performance is in the more intimate surrounds of Nell’s Jazz and Blues club and there are no restrictions placed on what features from their extensive back catalogue – Rennie Sparks late on describing the whole performance as something of a tangent.
Continue reading “The Handsome Family, Nell’s Jazz and Blues, London, 22nd October 2018”
“For us to have Loose Records here tonight and for us to still be married…” is Rennie Sparks’s wryly improbable reflection towards the beginning of this evening’s performance in Hackney – a nice acknowledgement of the record label who have long supported them but also a sly nod to the unlikelihood of a musical and personal marriage of such longevity. While such lengthy partnerships might seem improbable to Rennie, it’s certainly propitious for us, the audience, who are able to able to enjoy a live rendition of their 1998 album, ‘Through The Trees,’ in all its glory tonight. Continue reading “The Handsome Family, Hackney Round Chapel, 15th March 2018”
Got to be honest, there probably isn’t a square mile of the US or Europe that Brett and Rennie, The Handsome Family, haven’t covered at some point. The husband and wife duo must have one hell of a relationship to endure that many miles on the road together without serious risk of divorce or mental instability. That they appear, at least on the surface, as musically and harmoniously entwined is surely testament to a rigorously tested van life routine that has stood the test of time. I catch up with them en route to Aberdeen to get the lowdown.
Continue reading “Van Life: Rennie Sparks (The Handsome Family)”
These are the same deep dark woods that the Handsome Family walk through combing for tales of mealy bugs or familial murder. On Fallen Leaves, Ryan Boldt does a passable impersonation of Brett with his sonorous voice intoning a tale told in images that seem cut and pasted from the Handsome’s songbook, natural imagery and unnatural death. An atmosphere of foreboding penetrates Deep Flooding Waters, the pace suggesting that the flooding is incremental, death by inches, the steel guitar solo passing by like flotsam bobbing on the surface whilst down below the tragedy unfolds. Continue reading “The Deep Dark Woods “Yarrow” Six Shooter Records, 2017”
This was the second time your intrepid reporter has attended the annual celebration of all things good in Roots and Americana music that’s held in the beautiful city of Kilkenny in Ireland and now that it’s done and dusted, I can only scratch my head and wonder why only twice? Arriving on the Friday afternoon the first stop was Cleeres bar and on entering a pint of the local ale was thrust into my hand amidst many welcoming cries. It’s that kind of weekend. Folk I’d met once before at last year’s fest instantly said hello, some were veterans who have been attending since the nineties, some fellow newbies and soon we were all perusing the festival programme and working out our itineraries. Continue reading “Kilkenny Roots Festival, 28th April – 1st May 2017, Kilkenny, Ireland”
Tonight The Handsome Family arrive in town to play to a near capacity crowd at Folkestone’s Quarterhouse. Most it seems, are committed fans of the band although some like me have come along because the venue is on their doorstep and they have been lured by the penning of the darkly enthralling Far from any Road, from the equally darkly enthralling series ‘True Detective’. Continue reading “The Handsome Family, Folkestone Quarterhouse: 4th March 2017”