Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Tales from country's darker side

In their own words, they're a little bit creepy, a little bit clawhammer –and last night Belfast audience's got to experience the creepiness and clawhammer of The Handsome Family for themselves.

The husband and wife team of Albuquerque-based Renee and Brett Sparks – he writes the music, she writes the poetic and often disturbing lyrics – are the new king and queen of Gothic country.

As she explained, the first song they ever wrote together was about a woman who's kidnapped and murdered in the woods by her husband.

Such subject matter is lightened by Renee's whimsical patter and story-telling to the audience.

Their sombre and doleful, but always musically adept, brand of country is catching on. Some might save their best-known song for an encore, but the HF is so unstarry that they play it half-way through.

Also unstarry is the fact that they didn't play more than a few songs from latest album Wilderness.

Even though it took a 19-hour ferry journey to get The Handsome Family to Belfast, the joyous eccentricity of the Sparks made sparks fly last night.

MARGARET CANNING

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