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Handsome Family Bio


The new record by The Handsome Family (release date Oct. 2003) is called, "Singing Bones." There are songs about haunted Wal-Marts, lovers who chase the fire in streetlights, the madness of very deep holes, a lake that can only be visited in dreams, and the shadows that whisper inside a modern, office building. It's their 6th full-length CD of new songs.

" Singing Bones" is designed to rip holes in the veil between this world and the next. It should surely drive most listeners into a severely altered state in which even chicken bones at the bottom of a garbage pail across the street will begin to sing.

The Handsome Family is Brett and Rennie Sparks who live on a quiet street in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Every afternoon at 4 p.m. the ice cream man rolls slowly by in a white, dented van that plays a mournful version of "Greensleeves." Here--sequestered in their secret, garage studio soundproofed by a wall of poisonous, prickly pear--the Handsome Family recorded, "Singing Bones."

The Sparks' relied on their usual array of pawnshop instruments and mail-order software. Brett learned to play the pedal steel and the musical saw for this record and was also able to lure several local musicians into the studio using a beer can on a string. Once caged and starved, it was easy convince a few of them to embellish the new Handsome Family songs with trumpet, mandolin, bowed bass, and violin.

In their live performances, the Handsome Family will sometimes be two and a minidisc player and sometimes be three (when they can squeeze Brett's brother Darrell into the car with his drum set). But always their live performances will strive to be as beautiful and creepy as a thorny rose twisting around the bleached jawbone of a dead horse.

The Handsome Family is a small family consisting of husband and wife, Brett and Rennie Sparks who have been married for fifteen years. The first few years were a haze of drinking and mood swings much like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" minus all the witty repartee. Brett, who writes the music, is proud of his ability to sing Schubert with Texas drawl intact. Rennie, who writes the lyrics, has been recognized internationally for her ability to sob for hours on end. Live, on stage, the band usually consists of just the happy couple--Brett with guitar, washboard and Ibook (where their tiny drummer lives), and Rennie with Autoharp, bass, and melodica. On several occassions though, they've been able to drag other people on tour with them, most notably, Brett's brother Darrell Sparks who adds a lovely old-time brother harmonies to the songs and knows how to rattle the drum set.
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The Handsome Family's fifth CD, Twilight was their biggest seller to date. They were invited to perform on "Later with Jools Holland" on TV in the U.K. The record was a featured album of the month in "Uncut" magazine. The band toured almost continously for an entire year after its release in October, 2001.

Their fourth CD, "In the Air" was named #1 Americana CD for the year 2000 by Mojo as well as being listed in Spin 's annual "Best Ten RecordsYou Didn't Hear This Year." TV appearances included Ireland's "Late, Late Show." They were also featured on NPR's "All Things Considered."
The third Handsome Family CD, "Through the Trees" was the first CD to really bring the band worldwide attention (i.e. they quit their day jobs). Uncut magazine named "Through the Trees" the "Best New Country Album of the Year" and Chicago Sun-Times music writer Jim DeRogatis placed it as one of the ten most important albums to ever come out of Chicago.

SELECT DISCOGRAPHY

CDs
Singing Bones, Carrot Top Records, USA; Loose, Europe (minus Benelux and Ireland); Independent Records, Ireland; Bertus (Benelux), 10/03.
Live at Schuba's, Digital Club Network, 9/02
Smothered and Covered, self-released 7/02
Twilight, CD, Carrot Top Records, USA; Loose, England; Independent Records, Ireland; Trocadero, Europe. 9/01.
In the Air, CD, Carrot Top Records, USA; Loose, England; Independent Records, Ireland; Trocadero, Europe. 2/00.
Down in the Valley, An anthology of past CDs, Independent Records, Europe, 11/99.
Through the Trees, CD, Carrot Top Records, 1/98, USA; Loose, 3/98, Europe .
Milk and Scissors, CD, Carrot Top Records, USA; Scout, 5 /96, Europe.
Odessa, CD, Carrot Top Records, USA; 2/95; Scout, 5 /96, Europe.

SINGLES
" My Beautiful Bride," Magwheel Records, Canada, 8/99
" I Know You Are There"
" Telephones and Telescopes"

SONGS ON COMPILATIONS
" Weightless Again", K-Tel Alt. "Exposed Roots" Alt-Country Compilation, 8/99
" Moving Furniture Around," Loose, New Sounds of the Old West, 2/98
" Trail of Time," Poor Little Knitter on the Road , Bloodshot Records, 10/99
" Barbara Allen," Straight Outta Boone County, Bloodshot Records, 3/97
" Moving Furniture Around," For A Life of Sin, Bloodshot Records, 6/94.

OTHER ARTISTS
" Weightless Again" covered by Cerys Matthew's
" Don't Be Scared" on Andrew Bird's Weather Systems, 2003
" The Sad Milkman" and "The Snowbird," Sally Timms, Bloodshot Records, Twilight Laments for Lost Buckeroos, 11/99
" Drunk By Noon," Sally Timms, Cowboy Sally, Bloodshot Records, 3/97

LINKS

The Handsome Family built their own site which includes a new section crammed full of LYRICS


For booking information about The Handsome Family, visit High Road Touring

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