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The Handsome Family

Twilight – 2001 (Carrot Top)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by The Handsome Family

Over the past seven years, Brett and Rennie Sparks's marriage has spawned dozens of bleak and murderous progeny in the form of the twisted little folk songs that have populated their albums like haunted children of the corn. Under the Deliverance-in-Mayberry banner of the Handsome Family, the Sparks have penned and played any number of grusomely-themed and authentically morbid short stories disguised as gentle country folk hymns. When this musical version of Gomez and Morticia Addams christens their new album "Twilight," rest assured that pitch black isn't far behind.

This doesn't veer too far off the track that they've established on the four previous discs. The deceptively titled "The Snow White Diner" opens the album with an insistent near-rock beat and Middle Eastern veneer, but "Twilight" soon settles into their more familiar black folk groove. The rootsy drawl of "The White Dog" recalls Rank and File, while the bluegrass-edged "So Long" roll calls deceased family pets and sundry unlucky animals and the manners of their demise, a new standard of oddity even for the Sparks.

The Handsome Family's beauty is their absolute mastery of all the similarly structured genres that they utilize while retaining a sense of continuity through songs that are gently bent and sparsely arranged. The only excess on a Handsome Family record is the body count, and "Twilight" doesn't disappoint in that or any other regard.