Ten environmentally-aware Americana songs

The importance of the diversity of our ecology, and of environmental sustainability, are constant watchwords these days and every news bulletin seems to bring another warning that we need to take better care of this planet or pay the consequences. When it comes to the environment and, in particular, the effects of climate change, it’s increasingly clear that we’re all drinking in the Last Chance Saloon! As something of a tree-hugger myself, I thought it was time we took a look at what some of our Americana artists have to say on the matter. Continue reading “Ten environmentally-aware Americana songs”

Video: The Handsome Family “Eels”

It’s retro-Friday, which means dipping into the archives to find something brilliant to start your weekend.  This week, we turn to Americana legends The Handsome Family and their ninth studio album: 2013’s ‘Wilderness’.  The married duo, Brett and Rennie Sparks, are known for their mysterious, literary, obscure roots music and this album was one of their most fascinating in terms of themes and lyrics.  The wilderness…the wildness…the sense of ancient otherness.  This is a melodious, vocal beauty.

Handsome Family “Odessa” / “Milk and Scissors” (Loose, 2020)

It seems 35 million people think that the Handsome Family created something special having been chosen to provide the first series of, ‘True Detective’, with its title song, ‘Far From Any Road‘. That’s the remarkable number of hits it’s had online and, as much as any one track, it sums up their appeal. Coming from their sixth studio album, ‘Singing Bones‘, released in 2003, it provided just the perfect unsettling introduction to a series that may well have been one of the best ever by HBO. Continue reading “Handsome Family “Odessa” / “Milk and Scissors” (Loose, 2020)”

Handsome Family announce two reissues, UK dates

The Handsome Family are one of those bands who have been around for so long that you can’t imagine modern americana as a genre without them, Brett and Rennie Sparks being the masters of songs that transform the mundane landscape of modern life into a place of mysterious portent. Continue reading “Handsome Family announce two reissues, UK dates”

Songs for the apocalypse: The Handsome Family “So Much Wine”

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.

The Handsomes cover Wilco – Listen

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 Handsome Family, Nell’s Jazz and Blues, London, 22nd October 2018

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.
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The Handsome Family, Hackney Round Chapel, 15th March 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”

Van Life: Rennie Sparks (The Handsome Family)

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)”

The Deep Dark Woods “Yarrow” Six Shooter Records, 2017

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”