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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Handsome Family leaves no tombstone unturned

Silverlake Lounge, Silverlake Cal., April 23, 2001

By Dan MacIntosh

SILVER LAKE, CA - Brett and Rennie Sparks, known as Handsome Family, brought their Southern Gothic country road show to these tiny confines, where a small late night crowd ate up their songs about murder, drinking and general misery with half-serious glee.

Fortunately, the Sparks carried on this trail of tragedy with plenty of self-deprecating humor, oftentimes announcing songs by saying such things as "More people die in this story."

Of course, the death toll in this set might even make the likes of Ted Bundy and Charles Manson get a little jealous. But this was not merely a collection of songs about killing just for killing's sake. There was something deeper going on here as well.

Supported by rock guitar, touches of autoharp and banjo as well as an omnipresent drum machine, Handsome Family's music revealed a search for the sacred and meaningful, in an oftentimes cruel world.

A song like "Weightless Again" cries out desperately for something/someone to lift off the burdens of this world, just to allow a little free living.

But then again, there was a new song where Brett - who handled all the lead vocals - apologized for almost each and every living thing he'd ever killed in his lifetime. This laundry list even included bugs and plants. Handsome Family is a group that seemingly leaves no tombstone unturned.

Nevertheless, in spite of its morbid recurring death theme, Handsome Family - much like the local undertaker - does what it does well. And for that, they deserve props.