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coverpic flag US - New Mexico - Full Moon 249 - 12/14/16

The Handsome Family
Carrot Top Records / Loose Music

Some 15 odd years ago I found myself in Iowa City (don't ask), ready for a Chuck Prophet concert. Always a pleasure, indeed. Getting there in time meant that I caught the opening act too. On stage came a woman and a man. Fairly odd looking, though very charming and welcoming. This was my first encounter with The Handsome Family. The spouses Sparks.

Since then, they've kept it up, doing their thing and even got some unexpected - though deservingly so - fame and perhaps a share of fortune with "Far From Any Road" as the opening song to the show True Detective.

Well, if you're familiar with that, you'll know what they're about. And here, on their 10th album, nothing much is different. It's their thing, it's their sound, they write that kind of songs. There is something old, something familiar and most times safe with The Handsome Family. Well, until you start paying attention to their lyrics. And that's where they rise above so many others and danger and unease begin. And that might be why you'd want to listen to ten of their records. Somehow they manage to set different scenes for every song.

Like "The Silver Light". Starting off like a poor man's version of (Pink Floyd's) "Money" and taking us into a casino hell. "Back in My Day" finds Brett singing passionately about how things were better before, a singing he successfully keeps bringing out in "King of Dust", like a beautiful hymn somehow reminding me of (the deeply missed) Warren Zevon.

The Sparks seem to like songs in 3/4 beats, and treats a couple with that swing here too. It serves the songs well, and in their tradition of country/folk music these western waltzes do make you want to (slow) dance. "The Red Door" might well be my favorite on this album. Reminding me of "I Shal Be Released" for a few phrases, but finding its own ways.

The Handsome Family delivers a solid tenth. If you've been through - and cherished - the nine previous you'll find no surprises here. Maybe more of what you love. If you haven't spent time with the family before, this is a fine time to step inside their desert house.

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