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PHOTOS - ONE SHEET - PRESS CLIPPINGS

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Photo by Brad Miller

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Photo by Brad Miller

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In the Air Cover art
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Photo by Brad Miller

Last Days of Wonder cover art

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ONE SHEET download PDF One Sheets for Last Days of Wonder Singing Bones, Twilight and In the Air

Last Days of Wonder is a collection of love songs sung in airports, garbage dumps,
drive-thru windows and shark-infested waters. The album celebrates the little miraculous
moments of beauty found in everyday life: a golf course shining in the rain, hanging lights
bouncing in the breeze, pigeons singing from billboards, trees blooming in squares of dirt.
The songs linger on those moments when we’re pulled from the ordinary to feel awed by
mystery, bewildered by beauty, terrified by the vast unknowable around us (whether we
wander through shady groves or crowded parking lots).
Brett Sparks, who writes the music, draws from medieval melody, country-politan
string arrangements, tin-pan alley crooners, and dusty hillbilly records to weave together the
fabric of this record. Rennie Sparks, who writes the lyrics, makes magical realism from polar
adventure stories, turn-of-the-century electricity wars, pagan hunting songs and her own
time spent (like most people) riding up elevators, staring out hotel room windows, and driving
interstate highways.
The inspiration for the words in these songs (and especially the song “Tesla’s Hotel
Room”) comes from Rennie’s belief that not only does our present world feel like the last
days of wonder, but that human life has always felt just this way: full of a sense of impending
doom and inevitable self-destruction, but simultaneously steeped in the sacred, the infinite,
the impenetrable, the ever-wondrous.
Brett’s musical compositions for the new record and his recording process were
hybrids of the old and the new; the real and the fake; the analog and the digital. He drew
inspiration from reading The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, which led to many
experiments, like recording a kick drum using an old woofer (reverse-wired to a mic cable)
as a deep bass mic. Last Days of Wonder is full of such anomalies: analog compressors, vintage
instruments and condenser mics, all drawn into the digital world. The virtual band created
for this record got even weirder when pedal steel parts were e-mailed in from Chicago
(Stephen Dorocke-Freakwater, Jesse Sykes) and the musical saw part was e-mailed in from
London (David Coulter-Test Dept., Pogues, Tom Waits). Ah technology…
Last Days of Wonder travels from swamps and caves to laboratories and bowling
alleys, always celebrating the mystery and madness in love. The songs explain who's hanging
shoes on telephone wires, why automatic sinks in airports sometimes don't see your
hands, and why The Handsome Family refuses to go to Heaven unless flies can come too.
Also, a tender tale of Tesla's last days: his love for wounded pigeons and his ability to
explode light bulbs with his mind. Rennie is eaten by a wild boar. Brett threatens to pull the
stars down from the sky. It's a record of love songs in the true Romantic sense.

PRESS CLIPPINGS

about Twilight


Twilight (Carrot Top)
--"At a moment when any depressive with a good line of patter is positioned to convince disaster-dazed dissidents he's the prophet Jeremiah, lyricist Rennie Sparks and her doleful husband and music provider Bret deliver a new sheaf of morbid songs. These feel right even when their melodies dim out, in part because they aspire to mood rather than prophecy. More than half concern or mention animals, usually but not always still alive. One significant exception is a billion passenger pigeons, another the dog, cat, gerbils, goldfish, rabbit, chipmunk, squirrel, and insects to whom she/he bids so long. Right, the pets are supposed to be funny, in a morbid way. None of the humans who populate this album are so lucky. A few of them are deaf or blind, though. A MINUS"
Robert Christgau, Village Voice Consumer Guide

 

about In the Air
--"Delicioso album...Asi que hazte un favor y regalate una autentica joya del folk americano contemporaneo."
Rock Sound (Spain)

-- Indie Top 10 2000
Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune

--"Oddly pleasing."
Wall Street Journal November 10, 2000

--"Ten Best Records You Didn't Hear" The Handsome Family's Rennie Sparks is a short-story writer with a gift for condensing narratives into 85-word lyrics that read like 400-year-old murder ballads in modern drag: "Tuesday at dawn Michael's glasses washed ashore with a Styrofoam box and two broken oars." Her husband, Brett, who recorded this album in their living room, has the radiant baritone of the old-timers who sang country because it was Death's favorite music. Together, they will creep the living hell out of you.
Douglas Wolk, Spin
http://www.spin.com/new/magazine/jan2001didnthear.html


--A lush, serene musical backdrop recorded in Brett and Rennie Sparks' living room, the Chicago based alt-country duo's fourth album is a meditation on life and death, full of primitive enchantment, dark folklore and soul-shivering supernatural beauty. Resolutely small scale, but only Lambchop's Nixon this year displayed a similarly all-encompassing vision.
Uncut

--The Handsome Family make honky-pop and avant-tonk country music for people who would rather pretend Shania and Garth never existed. On its fourth album, the husband-and-wife team of Brett and Rennie Sparks continue to trade in infinitely sad songs. "Above the dark highway/ on a black tar roof/Stood the sad milkman in love with the moon, " sings a resigned Brett. The gloom and desperation of "In the Air"'s lyrics are matched by solemn melodies etched out by spare, guitar-based instrumentation. Unlike some of its faux-depression, alt-country counterparts, this Chicago duo doesn't over-emote. But when Brett spins a tale about a moon that could care less and a crowd that throws bottles at a stupid, hopeless romantic, you feel his pain.
Rolling Stone

 

about Through the Trees

Entering "Through the Trees" is like passing through the threshold of a cabin door and into the woods on the first day of spring, or just after an ice storm, into a mysterious world, one where "worms circle like sharks" and "crickets are screaming." see the whole review by Randall Roberts at Salon

“Each song is like an abridged Flannery O'Connor story read aloud by Johnny Cash, hovering somewhere between the metaphysical & the mundane.”- read more of this review by Darren Johns at NME

One of the abiding images of Russian film-maker Andrey Tarkovsky is of a farmhouse set adrift from the rest of the planet but still littered with books and art. The Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy of the No Depression movement - Rennie and Brett Sparks - a.k.a. The Handsome Family could be imagined at home in similar clapboard surroundings perched somewhere on top of a Chicago tenement block. - read more of this review at Flying Shoes

 

Read the Handsome Family Bio and Discography
Read about The Handsome Family Recordings on Carrot Top Records
See Handsome Family Tour Dates

 

L I N K S
The Handsome Family built their own site.
Read a review of Through the Trees at Salon
Read a review of In the Air by Peter Margasak at the Chicago Reader
Check out this interview with Jim DeRogatis at the Chicago Sun Times


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