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The Handsome Family

Honey Moon – 2009 (Carrot Top)

Reviewed by Linda Dailey Paulson

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CDs by The Handsome Family

Reputedly a Valentine to their 20 years together, The Handsome Family's "Honey Moon" is an odd assemblage of musical styles, most of which have a Gothic countrypolitan vibe to them. Brett Sparks' wistful baritone is front and center. It is the stuff of smoky after hours clubs, but his voice veers into Mrs. Miller territory when it ascends beyond its obvious comfort range as on Loneliness of Magnets and Love is Like. On the former, the material is not helped by dubious harmonies and hammy delivery.

Lyrically, Rennie Sparks is rooted in the natural world, yet her imagery is all over the place. Neanderthal love. Love professions carried on the wind. These sentiments are devoid of the sticky sentimentality typically associated with love songs. Darling, My Darling, for example, is a love song delivered by the male Praying Mantis. Hunh?

There are also brilliantly musical tracks that shimmer with lovely orchestrations behind twangy guitars. Among the better fare: A Thousand Diamond Rings and The Winding Corn Maze.

This is a quirky project that is as listenable as it is baffling despite multiple spins.