The Handsome Family have written some of the most haunting and beautiful songs in American music. During a 30-year career, Brett and Rennie Sparks have created songs that transform the mundane landscape of modern life into a place of mysterious portent.
Handsome Family songs take place in parking lots and big box stores, under overpasses and in airports. They sing about Custer’s last stand and automatic lawn sprinklers in the same song. Rennie’s lyrics often focus on the myriad creatures that live at the edges of the man-made world: the sparrows, rats, cockroaches and crows that share our cities.
Many great songwriters have covered their work, among them Jeff Tweedy, Jason Lytle and Andrew Bird as well Christy Moore. David Bowie wrote the words, ‘The Handsome Family’ in a notebook right before his death. Who knows what could have been?
Handsome Family shows are famously relaxed. Their songs can be dark, but there’s always laughter on stage. Rennie sings as well as plays Autoharp, banjo and uke bass. She often introduces songs with seemingly unrelated stories. Brett, with his stentorian voice, is a powerful presence at centre of the stage.
Tour support comes from Daniel Knox. With a baritone as dynamic as it is indestructible, Daniel Knox narrates compositions with a perverse and sometimes comical wit, guiding the listener through sprawling worlds that exist just out of frame. His work has inspired a diverse cast of collaborators that lie inside and outside his realm of alternative Americana, such as Jarvis Cocker, Thor Harris (Swans, Freakwater) and The Handsome Family with recent performances that include the likes of Rufus Wainwright, Andrew Bird and Swans.
One year on from his critically acclaimed grand, holistic album Chasescene – an album which confirmed his posItion as both a ‘rare talent’ (Loud and Quiet) and as a ‘master storyteller’ (The Observer) – Daniel Knox has announced a new mini-album, I Had A Wonderful Time. The mini-album will be released on 13 December via Knox’s own label H.P Johnson Presents, alongside the reissue of his 2015 self-titled album – an incredible work of world-building and song-craft, under-appreciated at the time but now reissued on blue vinyl. Knox lives and works in Chicago.