Review: The Handsome Family’s “Wilderness”

Brett and Rennie SparksJason Creps

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The Handsome Family
Wilderness
Carrot Top

The Handsome Family, Wilderness

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.

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This is the rubber-meets-road moment: the early days in our first fundraising drive since we took a big swing and merged with CIR to bring fearless investigative reporting to the internet, radio, video, and everywhere else that people need an antidote to lies and propaganda.

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