Sunday, March 15, 2009

SXSW: The Handsome Family

Last summer at a music festival, I settled down in my lawn chair to watch The Handsome Family, a grim-looking married couple whose supposed gothic country style interested me. Little did I know that they had just inexplicably stepped out of a dusty and forgotten black and white horror film. Shadowy clouds started to creep across the formerly sunny sky as Brett and Rennie Sparks began to sing beautifully gruesome songs about deadly swamps, burning forests and drug-fueled suicides. It began to rain and Rennie commented that they may have angered the gods somehow. After they finished their set, the rain stopped and the clouds began to disperse.

The gloomy duo was scheduled to play another set later that afternoon and I was spellbound by their first set so I went to see them again. The sky was shimmering from the rain earlier but when their turn came to perform, the heavens came showering down again. Rennie commented again, apologizing for the dreadful weather they had caused, but at least the canopy extended over the audience this time. Rennie began to play while Brett's captivatingly abrasive baritone serenaded us with more haunting songs of despair and misfortune. I was looking out towards a young tree not ten steps outside the tent when suddenly from that exact spot where it stood, a tremendous bolt of lightning exploded with a deafening crash and a blinding flash. The music stopped, the power cut off by the surge, while the audience spent several seconds blinking and looking around in shock, ears ringing. My ears and my eyes, and likely everyone else's, had never experienced such a massive overload. The power came back on but Brett and Rennie played the rest of their set unplugged to stave off the vengeful thunderclouds.

The Handsome Family not only tell frightful tales of misery and tragedy, but they have the remarkable ability to bring them to life.

If you like: Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Neko Case, Steve Earle

The Handsome Family - Weightless Again Download MP3 or Listen on MySpace

SXSW: The Handsome Family performs Saturday evening. Wear rubber-soled shoes and avoid metal jewellery.

Buy it:
Norman Records CD, worldwide
Insound CD, worldwide
CD Universe CD, worldwide CD, worldwide
Amazon CD, worldwide
Amazon UK CD, worldwide
iTunes Worldwide
eMusic MP3, worldwide
7digital MP3, UK only
Amazon MP3 US only
Amazon MP3 UK only
Their latest album is Honey Moon while “Weightless Again” is from their 1998 album Through the Trees.


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