Friday BBQ Spotify 3/21/14
I loves me some offbeat country music. And after he sold a new car in his other working life to successful Bay Area rapper LoveRance and listened to his new customer and young friend’s music, I even have my much-more-traditional country music listener partner Tex Howard thinking about producing a line of rap music covered country-style under a record label called Twisted Country. No seriously, watch for it – it’s gonna blow you away. Or at least make your eyes pop out.
However, until we create enough barbecue to afford the time to become music moguls, I’m just going to have to settle for satisfying my taste for for offbeat (read “alternative”) country music by going on the prowl for what’s already out there. And one of the newest choices on my radar is a husband-wife duo from Albuquerque called The Handsome Family. Originating out of Chicago of all places, Brett and Rennie Sparks have been playing their brand of alternative country and americana since 1993, but until their song Far From Any Road was selected as the theme song for HBO’s 2014 hit crime drama True Detective by the show’s music director, T Bone Burnett, not many people had ever heard of them.
The Handsome Family’s style is a blend of traditional country, bluegrass, and murder ballads. Regarding the band name, Brett said in an interview: “It’s just kind of a stupid name. We used to have this really obnoxious drummer, and he used to call me ‘Handsome’, that was his nickname for me, I think for sarcastic reasons… And he wanted to call it the Handsome Family…and we thought it was funny, too. We thought it was a good name.” Brett is originally from Odessa, Texas and Rennie from Long Island, which certainly could make for an offbeat and exciting combination. The band toured extensively throughout both America and Europe in support of early releases Odessa (1994) and Milk and Scissors (1996). During that time, Brett suffered an emotional breakdown, resulting in his hospitalization and diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Their third full-length album, Through the Trees, was written in the aftermath of these events, and included a song inspired by Brett’s experiences in the psychiatric unit. Rennie’s lyrics have a strong storytelling component, drawing on themes from Gothic fiction, as well as American folk music, and often involving macabre subjects as murders, suicides and ghosts. And it all sounds good too.
Ahhh, perfect. Just what I was looking for as the initial installment of Twisted Country. I’ll keep scouring the barns and back roads for more alternative country standouts and soon feature some twisted stalwarts like Junior Brown and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. In the meantime, enjoy The Handsome Family’s take on alternative country, and have a fabulous opening spring weekend. And above all, as they say in Austin – keep it weird.