By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
We honor the Handsome Family around here often because, like Elvis before them, it's one thing many of us agree upon: That the married duo from Chicago are something special, creating music that, when times are particularly rotten and hopeless -- or blossoming with magic -- offer comfort. Sometimes the comfort comes in the form of proof that there are two people in this world -- Brett and Rennie Sparks -- who seem at least as fucked-up as you are; even more important, though, is that these two people manage to create something beautiful and timeless of this desperation. They play gentle country music. She writes the lyrics -- tiny short stories, really; he writes the music and sings in one of the saddest and most beautiful tones you'll ever hear. Their new record, In the Air, follows their last prepositional phrase of choice, Through the Trees. Air ponders the depths of despair, but the Handsome Family are just as taken with the hope of salvation as they are with the bad feelings.
One read through their lyric sheet is enough to hook you, and, as a service, we here reprint the words to one of the best songs on In the Air, "A Beautiful Thing":
"Don't you remember that snowy December when we went to see' Singing In the Rain'? I shouldn't have smuggled in that bottle of gin because after the film, I could barely walk. But, darling don't you know it's only human to want to kill a beautiful thing. When I was seven summer lasted forever. I used to chase fireflies through the woods. Tiny green lights circling warm August nights. I'd catch them inside a washed-out old jar. I dreamed of the stars with the jar by my bed, but each morning my pretty bugs were dead. Oh, darling don't you see it's only human to want to kill a beautiful thing. We should have been dancing like lovers in a movie, but I fell and cut my head in the snow. I wanted to tell you all the ways I loved you, but instead I got sick on the train. But, darling don't you know it's only human to want to kill a beautiful thing."
Opening the show is another married duo, the great Puerto Muerto, who recently relocated from St. Louis to Chicago; and Sin Ropas, also from Chicago, featuring ex-members of Califone and Red Red Meat.