Unseen, singer-guitarist Brett Sparks croons with a world-weary voice as his wife, Rennie, accompanies him on banjo and bass. Such tracks as “King of Dust” initially appear to float by like mellow ballads evoking pastoral wonder until you listen closely and realize that Rennie’s lyrics are unusually haunting and macabre. “I dreamed that I was flying above the glittering world, but I woke up in the bar ditch,” Brett intones. “The Sea Rose” is a folksy shuffle that portrays a mysterious and watery siren who wants to drag her lover under the waves.
The Handsome Family formed in Chicago and are now based in Albuquerque, but you can hear traces of rural America blowing like a cold wind through the open windows of their songs. On their latest album,