THE HANDSOME FAMILY

‘THROUGH THE TREES 20TH ANNIVERSARY LP”

9 MARCH 2018

THROUGH THE TREES 20TH ANNIVERSARY LP (2018)

“Bewitching in its weirdness, Through The Trees and its bonus CD of demos, live performances “and bickering” is almost comically unsettling, a unique fermentation of gothic country. Seven albums later the quality has rarely dipped, but this is where the magic first revealed itself.”
★★★★
MOJO

“a defining work by Brett and Rennie Sparks and an inescapably intense listening experience that excels in mood and storytelling. A tentpole release for the developing Americana scene back in the day… one of Americana’s more eclectic records. To their credit, they moved the genre forward, paving the way for greater eccentricity and experimentation.”
THE LINE OF BEST FIT

“it stands as a testament to the odd brilliance of their songs”
8/10
UNCUT

UNSEEN (2016)

“Unseen is The Handsome Family’s masterpiece”
★★★★
MOJO

“Rennie Sparks, master of the desert surreal”
“better than the entire second season of True Detective and most of the first as well.”
‘GOLD’ – #6 TOP 50 SONGS OF 2016
AMERICAN SONGWRITER

“Beguiling tenth album from American husband and wife duo”
‘UNSEEN’ – #47 BEST ALBUMS OF 2016
8/10
UNCUT

‘UNSEEN’ – #5 BEST COUNTRY ALBUMS OF 2016
CLASSIC ROCK

“love, harmony and poetry bind in a brilliant way to obscure beats”
★★★★
ROLLING STONE FRANCE

 “Brilliant.”
★★★★
THE INDEPENDENT

“Another low-key masterpiece wrapped in spooky twanging guitars, heartbroken harmonies, droning tempos and lyrics that often don’t rhyme, delivered in Brett Sparks’ deadpan, rumbling baritone.”
9.5/10
MAGNET

“it will be a tough assignment to find a better opening verse this year in music than the one that opens Gold”

“Rennie allowed her imagination to take hold and instead came up with a wild and wonderful tale of violent crime and small town justice. It’s what makes her such an amazing storyteller, and when accompanied by Brett’s sweeping orchestration, makes the duo such a solid and unique musical act.”
8/10
GLIDE MAGAZINE

“Singular alt country duo at their Gothic finest with songs filled with ghosts, wonders and mystery”
★★★★
DAILY MIRROR

“Common wisdom holds that the duo’s finest album is Through The Trees. It may be time to revise that. Look and listen.”
FOLK RADIO

“Ten songs to woo you, attractive and amorous, some might say ‘andsome”
★★★★★
MUSIC-NEWS

 “You’ve never heard anyone like The Handsome Family, and you never will. Comparisons to any other are futile. Grab this one up and you’ll wear it out.”
FARCE THE MUSIC

 “Beautifully atmospheric late night listening”
8/10
OUTLINE MAGAZINE

“Sublime… immerse yourself in something ‘other’, something dark and beautiful and beyond compare”
★★★★★
NARC. MAGAZINE

“Fifteen million YouTube hits later and Rennie and Brett are back with an exquisitely recorded album of midnight dark American folk music, enigmatic and fantastic tales of coyotes, cicadas, sunsets and the reflection of the moon on water.”
NE:MM

“cowboy folk music for spectres and old gods like if Johnny Cash read the Necronomicon”
NOW THEN MAGAZINE

“”This is perhaps the quintessential Handsome Family album”
FATEA

“The elemental, organic, homespun music of the Handsome Family occupies a place somewhere between Nick Cave’s and The Band’s. Timeless and sepia-toned, deep and dark, it seems to inhabit a parallel dimension of Americana, one with its own legends and terrors, one where time has warped… Instead of a cult band, they could be a real cult.”
NO DEPRESSION

★★★★
BUZZ IRELAND

★★★★
IRISH TIMES

★★★★
BELFAST TELEGRAPH

“a bluegrass, folky storytelling masterpiece”
★★★★★
BUZZ WALES

“Imagine Nick Cave had grown up in the American West, raised on a diet of country music – The lyrics are completely gripping.”
★★★★
EXPRESS & STAR

“The Handsome Family certainly know what they are doing and they are still doing it pretty darn well.”
GIGSOUP

“With all its soft unquiet Unseen stands with the most captivating of the pair’s previous work.”
#13 – BEST AMERICANA ALBUMS OF 2016
POP MATTERS

“Only the Handsomes could carry off the story of a miniature horse, Tiny Tina, with such aplomb or sing meaningfully about “beefy nachos, chicken wings, all you can eat buffet”.
★★★★
THE SUN

“Many bands talk about being unique. Few are. This one is. There’s no one that sounds quite like The Handsome Family, and no one goes about it in the way do.”
MAXIMUM VOLUME MUSIC

“they really have no equal – The Handsome Family remain a singular delight and long may they do so”
BLABBER & SMOKE

WILDERNESS (2013)

 “‘Wilderness’ should deservedly scoop the same critical plaudits as previous ‘Family outings, the latest entry into the band’s extensive canon of outstanding work.”
PENNYBLACK MUSIC

NO.6 IN UNCUT’S BEST AMERICANA ALBUMS OF 2013
★★★★
UNCUT

★★★★
Q

★★★★
MOJO

“Words that in their everyday surrealism have no parallel in contemporary writing…music that mines the deep veins of fatalism in the Appalachian voice.”
GREIL MARCUS

THE OBSERVER’S HIDDEN GEMS OF 2013

★★★★½
THE SUN

★★★★
NO DEPRESSION

★★★★
MAVERICK

“Their new recording brought to mind a focus and refinement to the weirdness and the weirder they get the more I like ‘um.”
KURT WAGNER (LAMBCHOP)

★★★★½
COUNTRY MUSIC PEOPLE

“I think Rennie Sparks and Vic Chestnutt are the two greatest lyricists of the last 20 years.”
CARL NEWMAN (AC NEWMAN, NEW PORNOGRAPHERS)

LIVE REVIEWS

“they cast a mesmeric, almost meditative spell over the audience with their midnight dark urban folk Rennie’s barbarous short story lyrics all sharp edged lustre”
AMERICANA UK 

“Catch these American treasures while you can, especially if you like your family affairs a little more Addams than nuclear.”
ROCKSHOT

Through The Trees 20th Anniversary Edition LP (2018)
Unseen (2016)
Wilderness (2013)

The Handsome Family have written some of the most haunting and beautiful songs in American music. During their 25-year career Brett and Rennie Sparks (a.k.a. The Handsome Family) have created songs that transform the mundane landscape of modern life into a place of mysterious portent. As Greil Marcus said, “… their everyday surrealism has no parallel in contemporary writing…”

 

Handsome Family songs take place in parking lots and big box stores, under overpasses and in airports. They sing about Custer’s last stand and automatic lawn sprinklers in the same song. Rennie’s lyrics often focus on the myriad creatures that live at the edges of the man-made world. Brett’s music relies on a wealth of classical models from Bach to Brecht to the Beatles. Sometimes he uses “word painting” to carefully illuminate the text. Other times he deliberately undercuts the lyrical mood to create an uncomfortable tension— that happy-sad bittersweetness The Handsome Family are famous for. Many great songwriters have covered their work, among them Jeff Tweedy, Jason Lytle, and Andrew Bird (who released an entire record of Handsome Family songs).

 

This summer the Sparks’ are taking a break from work on their 11th album to hit the road in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of their ground-breaking third record Through the Trees. Mojo magazine named the album one of the 10 essential Americana records of all time. Jeff Tweedy actually loaned them most of the equipment used to record it. He also sang and played guitar on several tracks.

 

Handsome Family shows are famously relaxed. Their songs can be dark, but there’s always laughter on stage. There’s even some whooping from the crowd these days with the addition of Alex McMahon (guitars, steel, keyboards) and Jason Toth (drums, keyboards, sampler). Rennie sings as well as plays Autoharp, banjo, and uke bass. She often introduces songs with seemingly unrelated stories. Brett, with his resonant voice and grand beard, is a powerful presence at the center of the stage. There are a lot of new faces at shows these days, brought by “Far From Any Road,” which became a global hit when it was the theme to season one of True Detective. Both Guns ’N Roses and Bruce Springsteen have used “Far From Any Road” as walk-in music and the song is often played at hockey games.

 

And, believe it or not— David Bowie’s recently published notebooks contain a line that simply says, “Handsome Family.” Who knows what might have been?

Click individual images to download hi-res version

Photos by Jesse Littlebird
Photos by Brandon Soder
Through The Trees press shot (1998)

LABEL
EUR: Loose
USA: Milk & Scissors Music


PRESS
UK print: Tom Bridgewater | Loose
UK online: Doug Hall | D Digital PR
UK regional: Rob Kerford | Sonic PR
FRANCE: Michel Pampelune | Fargo Mafia
GSA: Miriam Barzynski | Rough Trade Germany
SCANDINAVIA: Håkan Olsson | Rootsy
USA: Erik Andersen | Missing Piece


RADIO
UK: Sean Newsham | Muntante Inc.
GSA: Miriam Barzynski | Rough Trade Germany


BOOKING
EUR:
Rupert Orton | NTSOBC
USA:
Meredith Aleandri | High Road Touring