CD Review - The Handsome Family "Wilderness"

Brett and Rennie Sparks release a new album and suddenly the World is a better place

I’m the first to acknowledge that the Handsome Family are an acquired taste and, no matter what I say about this album, the majority of music fans (my wife included) will not like the music on offer. But, to those of us who do ‘get it,’ we will sit mesmerized by the dark and often weird tales of caterpillars , immortal jellyfish, flies and migrating wildebeest.

The sound that the Handsome Family creates is often (lazily in my opinion) described as ‘Southern Gothic,’ but when you listen to this album over and over again (which I recommend) you will hear elements of Psychedelia,  Traditional Folk, Indie guitar solos (of the highest order) and, more importantly, lyrics that are a mixture of the Beatles and Shakespeare in influence.

It’s pointless to try and dissect a song like Eels, just so I can tell you what a beautiful love song it is, because the title is going to put you off anyway if you’re not already a fan. But, if you aren’t, you are seriously missing out!

Owls is a delightful Country song, sung in a baritone voice so deep you can hear an echo in Brett’s throat, about  20-foot-tall Owls that steal his pills but end up making his ‘house a home.’

The harmonies on Woodpecker are simply glorious. What sounds suspiciously like a ukulele is of Claptonian standards, and the song itself is as left-field as I’m ever going to hear, but I love it dearly.

It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that the songs on WILDERNESS aren’t to be taken too literally; but every now and again we all need a little bit of goofiness in our lives, don’t we? Well, I do, and the Handsome Family more than fill my quota every couple of years.


#Release Date 13th May 2013

Views: 1072

Tags: Handsome Family

Comment by Easy Ed on April 2, 2013 at 5:20am

My kid...yes my teenage me into these folks last year, and I spent about four months listening to every single note they recorded, every single day. You just made me a very happy person living in anticipation.

Comment by Harrisonaphotos on April 2, 2013 at 5:36am

It's nice to know that music can still transcend the generations isn't it?

Comment by Easy Ed on April 2, 2013 at 6:48am

sort of off topic...but i've also been listening a lot lately to trevor moss and hannah-lou. they aren't known well on this side of the world, but imagine you may be a fan.

Comment by Harrisonaphotos on April 2, 2013 at 7:06am

I've not heard of them; but you've obviously piqued my interest now!

Comment by Easy Ed on April 2, 2013 at 7:12am

Oh will have a lovely day/night I'm sure. 

Comment by Harrisonaphotos on April 2, 2013 at 7:17am

just downloaded their single - like the A side but the other is a bit too folky for my taste. I see that they are supporting the Rockingbirds on Wednesday and Thursday; sadly its too far away.

Comment by Kyla Fairchild on April 2, 2013 at 10:05am

Love the Handsome Family!  Know their early albums well, but kinda lost track of them and haven't kept up with their recent releases. In the Air is my favorite album.

Here's a sampler from Soundcloud with some great songs:

Comment by Jack on April 3, 2013 at 10:05am

" acquired taste" is apt.  Saw them years ago not long after they started playing together here in Chicago, they were on the same bill as a friend of mine's band.  If I recall correctly it was just the two of them equipped with a boom box of backing tracks, though I was equipped with a few pops so don't hold me to that part.  But I think they used recorded music to flesh things out.  Quirky was my reaction at the time.  Interesting band, nothing cookie cutter about them.

Comment by Michael Carley on April 5, 2013 at 8:14am

Your first sentence captures them well.

Maybe someone can answer an industry question for me:  I saw this review and decided I wanted to put the album on my wishlist.  Looking on Amazon in MP3 downloads, the album doesn't even appear.  Upon further searching it is available on CD.  I've seen this a couple of times recently.  An ablum comes out on CD first, but you have to wait for the MP3 version.  The problem is, some of us simply don't have room for more CD (there are around 28,000 songs in my iTunes library).  So, I'm prevented from putting the item I want on my wishlist when it comes to my attention.  When it's made available, presumably in a couple of months, it will likely not be on my mind.  Of course, I could add the CD to my wishlist temporarily and may, but it's not the item I actually want.  Why are labels doing this?  Is there still much more profit made from CDs?

Comment by Kyla Fairchild on April 5, 2013 at 3:41pm

@ Michael, good question.  I'm thinking that perhaps Amazon's MP3 system isn't built to allow pre-orders of MP3's the way it is with albums.  The album isn't out til the middle of May so while it's listed in the album section, they wouldn't be able to list it in the MP3 section until it is actually available for purchase on the release day.  Just a guess though, I could be wrong.


You need to be a member of No Depression Americana and Roots Music to add comments!

Join No Depression Americana and Roots Music


If you enjoy this site please consider helping us with a small donation!

Don't like PayPal? Mail a check to: No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

When you shop at Amazon please enter through this search box and No Depression receives a referral fee



Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.