Review: The Handsome Family’s “Wilderness”

Brett and Rennie SparksJason Creps

The Handsome Family
Carrot Top

The Handsome Family, Wilderness


Albuquerque-based spouses Brett and Rennie Sparks have crafted their idiosyncratic version of Americana for more than two decades, blending his low growl of a voice with her askew lyrics to offer a subtly surreal take on traditional music. In songs like “Frogs,” “Caterpillars,” and “Eels” (you get their drift), the slow-cooking Wilderness, out this week, charts the uneasy interaction between humankind and the natural world, often to scary effect. “The owls they mock me and have stolen my pills,” Brett murmurs on—what else?—”Owls.” Things turn downright creepy on “Spider,” his account of how “a million little teeth tore me to pieces.” Amid familiar fiddles and banjos, the Handsome Family’s absorbing vision of decay and entropy is quietly unsettling, and makes most other modern roots music seem like child’s play.