The Handsome Family

The Handsome Family’s highly anticipated album Wilderness will be released May 14 on Carrot Top Records. “Spider,” a new track from Wilderness, can be streamed and shared at SoundCloud. The upcoming album from husband and wife songwriting duo Brett and Rennie Sparks follows 2009’s Honey Moon, which Pitchfork praised for “Rennie’s skillful threading of words into images and Brett’s sensitive translation of words on a page into vocals.” Wild animals, tall tales, and dark stories from American history populate the lyrics of Wilderness. Appalachian holler, psychedelic rock, tin pan alley, and medieval music continue to inform The Handsome Family’s unique brand of Americana, while their affinity for old-tyme ballads and clawhammer banjo has never sounded so seamlessly connected to their use of samples, loops, and sonic effects. Wilderness has a great deal of musical variety: pop, classic rock, countrypolitan, bossa nova, and prog rock appear on the album along with parlour ballads, cajun tunes, and hymns. The album will be released on LP, CD, and as a deluxe box set. (Please see below for complete track listing.)

A companion book of original artwork and essays by Rennie Sparks, also titled Wilderness, will expand on the meticulously researched and little-known enigmas of the natural world explored on the album: immortal jellyfish, woodpecker tongues, dancing octopi, fly royalty, the secret language of crows, and mysterious ant spirals. A 72-page, 12”x12” full-color edition of the book will be included with the deluxe box set, along with an 11”x17” color poster and a six-postcard set, all with original art by Rennie. A black and white edition of the book will be available separately.

Brett and Rennie Sparks have been collaborating on music for over 20 years. With lyrics by Rennie and music by Brett, The Handsome Family infuse their singular art with everything from punk rock to folk, and have garnered extensive critical acclaim over the years. “The songs are an effortless blend of vintage country and pre-rock ’n’ roll pop,” declared SPIN, “but New Mexico's Handsome Family are no cutesy nostalgia act.” Mojo named their 1998 album Through the Trees one of the “ten essential Americana records of all time,” and Uncut called In the Air “one of the most important records of the 21st century.” The Handsome Family’s songs have been covered by many notable artists including Jeff Tweedy, Andrew Bird, and Kelly Hogan. Originally from Chicago, The Handsome Family now record all their songs in a converted garage studio at the back of their Albuquerque home.

“A good song has a way of speaking to everybody” Danny Barnes says. “I have faith that more people are going to hear my songs, which is really what I have to offer. I’m not one of those virtuoso instrumentalists, I can’t compete with those guys, but one thing I can do it write really good songs.”

Part southern gentleman, part humble artist, Barnes is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and genre-bending artists of his craft. Barnes’ musical interests are both varied and adventurous and although he demonstrates an appreciation for the history of the bluegrass, country and folk music from which the banjo’s reputation was born, his inventive take is what truly separates him from his contemporaries…using the banjo as his ‘weapon of choice’ to play non-traditional music like rock, fusion and jazz with electronic percussion and loop elements.

On his new album Rocket, Barnes continues to push the envelope and reinvent the wheel with the creation of the ‘Barnjo’; a prototype of a hard body electric banjo with pickups that allow him to showcase his love for rock and roll, and his passion for melding genres together in a style that is quite frankly, all of his own making.

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The Handsome Family with Danny Barnes

Thursday, July 25 · Doors 8:30 PM / Show 9:30 PM at The Bishop