The Handsome Family’s ‘Honey Moon’ is a 20 year wedding anniversary gift to us all-
By Rod Ames
Brett and Rennie Sparks, aka The Handsome Family
I wrote this review back in April and it originally appeared in The Texas Star Tribune. I was surprised at not finding where this record had been reviewed here when I did a simple search. Maybe I just missed it. The fact is, I’m in the process of compiling a “Top 10” list for 2009 and of course The Handsome Family’s Honeymoon is going to be on it. They had me hooked the first time I heard “Weightless Again”. I’ve been a great lover of their music ever since.
Rennie Sparks is a poet and Brett Sparks, her husband of 20 years, brings her poetry to life in the form of music. Together they are The Handsome Family . This song writing duo possess a chemistry this writer finds very difficult to match.
From the opening track, “Linger, Let Me Linger”, we are drawn into their love for each other. The comparisons of their devotion to one another, “I am puddles in the street, waiting for your falling leaves”, draw us a picture of what it is like to live in their gothic, alternative country world of words and music. The lyrics to this tune tell us a lot about the duo. They are truly devoted to one another. The rhythmic, almost fifties sounding, tinkering of the piano adds a David Lynchian quality, along with the somber sound of the cello bring it all together.
On the very next track,”Little Sparrows”, we are drawn in by an intensely traditional, country sounding, pedal steel guitar (the pedal steel guitar gets me every time). The rhythm of this song is also very traditional. The lyrics, however, are not. In this song they compare their love for each other to absolutely everything. “Oh, you paper cups rolling down the windy street Oh/ you little ants winding through the tangled weeds/Where you’re going I don’t care/ take me with you when you go”. Devotion to one another is the theme, and by the end of the tune there is no question as to this devotion.
The fifth track on the record, and my personal favorite is, “The Loneliness of Magnets”. In this tune we are lured in by a soft snare and bass drum, closely followed by the whistling melody of the song and finally, Brett Sparks showing his baritone voice’s range. The song has a very 1920’s ragtime rhythm quality to it. The soft picking of the electric guitar further complements the tune. Ms. Sparks’ lyrics again are captivating and profound: “Wherever you are tonight as you close your eyes to sleep/Think of me as you drift away to the mist of silver dreams/And I will find you in the darkness where water turns to steam Your pull upon my heart could steer ten thousand wings”, followed by the chorus, “I feel the loneliness of magnets and trembling mountain peaks/I call you from dark valleys and I hear you echoing”. When you close your eyes and listen to these words and music, you can literally hear it all as if it were growing out of the ground.
The final track on the record is “Down in the Winding Corn Maze”. This song is The Handsome Family at it’s best. The words are perfect and fit with the music to a tee. The acoustic guitar is absolutely beautiful and again, it seems to all grow right out from under your feet, out of the moist, musky earth. The lyrics are as beautiful as the music, “There in a swarm of bees I knelt down at her feet/Such spirals spread for miles through the bending leaves/And she took me to her arms in that cloud of honey bees/Whirring in their whirling as they rose on golden wings/Down in the winding corn maze where green stalks shiver in the wind”.
Wow! This song very nearly left me without words to write. How can two people love each other so much? They are truly an inspiration to me, and will be to you as well. After listening to this record, I sought out my wife and hugged her like I had never hugged her before.
I had the pleasure to do an interview with Ms. Sparks a few months back, where she responded to a question about their secret to longevity in marriage, “I think writing songs together has brought us a lot closer….” , and it shows on literally every track on Honey Moon.
Honey Moon was released earlier this year on Carrot Top Records, and is their 11th record to date.
If you have one single romantic bone in your body you will buy this record. If you’re a fan of The Handsome Family as I am, you will buy it simply because it is them. What ever the reason, I promise you this: you will not be disappointed.