The Handsome Family: Honey Moon

By: Dennis Cook

The Handsome Family, namely Rennie and Brett Sparks, may be this era's Les Paul and Mary Ford, a creative coupling that transmutes the intimacy of a marriage into music of tingling, romantic closeness. Though champs at death songs and cloudy conjecture, Honey Moon (released April 14 on Carrot Top) is, at the core, about the ache to connect, understanding that it's in others we find completion even if it's not always obvious where our roots will meet along our respective family trees.

I am the puddles in the street waiting for your leaves
Twine your vines around me, drop your branches in my path
Linger, let me linger

Brett's voice is a kind cousin to John Doe and Jim Lauderdale, one of those husky tools for getting pure song across, and Ronnie adds some sweet dew to his petals. Honey Moon is their most relaxed, unhurried offering yet, and as such may not grab you right away. But, the Jonathan Richman-meets-Johnny Cash under a blue moon croon of "My Friend" or the old school Opry feel of "When You Whispered" have a way of seeping into you, and the rest filter in, too, over time. There's a simplicity, or perhaps better put, a purity of form to the music on Honey Moon, where no stray elements enter and what's offered feels carefully determined. If one could send a copy of this back in time to Hank Williams I'm certain he'd listen to it a bunch.

For all the lovey-dovey vibe, this never feels syrupy, with Rennie's lyrics circumventing cliché with unique similes ("Love is like a white moth sipping tears from a sleeping bird) and an adroit tactility that lures one into their personal space ("When we were together I lay in your river/ as the fish swam through my hands). Love songs will always provide the bedrock of popular music. The push-and-pull of our hearts makes that inevitable, but rarely these days is the subject matter handled with this level of skilled delicacy or homespun personality.

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[Published on: 4/29/09]

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