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A Magazine for Sheffield

The Handsome Family Unseen

Released: 16 September 2016

The Handsome Family are comprised of a husband and wife core, Rennie and Brett Sparks. Last month they released their latest album, Unseen, which follows 2013’s Wilderness and is their 11th in a career stretching back to 1993.

The alt-country duo purvey an endearing strain of dreamy Americana, ranging from country ballads to lilting banjo and piano tunes reminiscent of the fairground, all haunted by a sense of the beyond, which is menacing, hopeful and surreal.

Fans of the band’s best known song, ‘Far From Any Road’, will find tracks in the same vein on this album. ‘Gold’, the opening track, also released as a single, will certainly whet the same appetite. It’s a modern murder ballad whose lyrics betray an affection for the dusty deserts of the band’s New Mexico home and explore themes of longing.

The album proceeds from there on with a range of tunes, from the quirky ‘Tiny Tina’, a quaint lamentation over a missed opportunity to see the world's smallest horse, to tracks like ‘The Red Door’ or ‘Underneath The Falls’, whose gothic lyrics invoke the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany and the weirder folk tales of the American tradition.

Unseen is an album of cowboy folk music for spectres and old gods, like if Johnny Cash read the Necronomicon. A sound which will be familiar to fans of the band and which adds to an already developed trend within their catalogue without sounding stale or unadventurous, it’s a testament to the rich imagination of the Sparks and the continuing vitality of the Handsome Family’s musical voice.