The Handsome Family, In the Air

Matthew Fritch

By Matthew Fritch

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Highly literate alt-country that balances ghost stories and life-affirming lullabies.

An alt-country act that Edgar Allan Poe, Edward Gorey and Edward Scissorhands might agree on, the Handsome Family enthusiastically embraces country music's tradition of murder ballads and Appalachian folk oddities. Husband-and-wife duo Brett and Rennie Sparks continue to sound spooky and smart on their fourth album, which contains macabre fairy tales concerning a girl falling in love with a gravedigger's son ("Poor, Poor Lenore") and the crime of a knife-wielding groom ("My Beautiful Bride"). But lyricist Rennie and composer/baritone singer Brett don't get gothic all the time. The nature imagery on opening track "Don't Be Scared" (which kicks off with the same guitar chords as the The Dukes of Hazzard theme song) could serve as a soothing response to Hank Williams '"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Later covered by Andrew Bird (who plays violin on three songs here), "Don't Be Scared" is indicative of this album's impeccable balance between ghost stories and life-affirming lullabies.