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Through the Trees

The Handsome FamilyAudio CD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

Price: $14.57 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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 : Includes FREE MP3 version of this album.
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Enter the dark forest of The Handsome Family and let the beautiful branches surround you. This is haunting music in the most wonderful way— brilliant, emotionally-charged and totally unique.

The Handsome Family is a 20-year songwriting collaboration between husband and wife, Brett (music) and Rennie Sparks (words). Their lyrics and music are very intense, highly descriptive and ... Read more in Amazon's The Handsome Family Store

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Through the Trees + Singing Bones + In the Air
Price for all three: $41.12

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 26, 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Carrot Top Records
  • ASIN: B0000061O4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,562 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. My Ghost - The Handsome Family

Editorial Reviews

For their second album, Brett and Rennie Sparks take a more serious approach, eschewing the jokier elements of their debut and concentrating on writing country music with an urban sensibility and a post-graduate degree. It's doubtful that any previous country album included songs in praise of Cologne Cathedral or Lake Michigan, but backed by the Sparks' austere songs--often just guitar, autoharp, and drum machine--with occasional help by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, the music has an almost Appalachian simplicity and newfound depth of feeling. Like coming across a brownstone in the mountains, the Handsome Family's music is simultaneously disconcerting and strangely beautiful. --Steven Mirkin

Product Description

1998 release, the third full-length from the Alt-Country/Americana outfit. The Handsome Family were formed in 1993 by husband and wife duo Brett Sparks and Rennie Sparks along with drummer Mike Werner. The band, born and bred in Chicago before migrating to Albuquerque, play a unique blend of traditional Country, Bluegrass, and murder ballads. Rennie's lyrics have a strong storytelling component, drawing on themes from Gothic fiction, as well as American folk music, and often involving macabre subjects as murders, suicides and ghosts. Through the Trees was nominated by Mojo readers as one of the most important Americana CDs of the 1990s.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
This is rightfully celebrated as the Handsome Family's finest album. It isn't perfect--several of the songs are a couple of notches in quality below the best efforts--but there are several songs that are absolutely unforgettable. People have debated whether it is country, neo-traditional, folk, or whatever, but while the form of the music would make it some kind of alt-country effort, the lyrics send it off into its own unique genre. These songs are STRANGE. If this is country, name me another country song that in any way resembles "The Woman Down the Stairs" or any folk song that bears any resemblance to "My Sister's Tiny Hands." I have trouble putting the Handsome Family into any kind of country genre for a simple reason: in most country songs, people's lives are broken while the world is essentially OK. But the Handsome Family's songs are metaphysical; they describe a broken world, so broken that the people are by necessity lost, bereft, doomed. It is music that is Gothic in the sense that Nathaniel Hawthorne was Gothic, not Marilyn Manson. Better, their songs could be compared with the work of Ray Bradbury. Although he is mistakenly thought to be a Sci-fi writer, it is more accurate to describe him as a master of the Weird Fiction genre. The songs of the Handsome Family shares more than a few qualities with this genre.

About a third of the songs on this album are masterpieces, another third very good, and a third just sorta drab. If the weakest songs had been replaced, this would have been one of the great American albums ever. Even as it is, this is essential. "Weightless Again" is just stunning, built around a simple, lovely, forlorn melody, but essentially a meditation on why people do some of the more extreme, self-destructive things they do to themselves.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goth Country February 10, 2000
Format:Audio CD
Goth country is the first thing that comes to mind. This album picks up where Johnny Cash and Devo left off offering a twisted storytelling/yet purely personal midwestern view of 2 tortured beautiful souls, Brett and Rennie Sparks. This cd sat in my collection for a year and a half before it finally hit me. Definitely a mood piece requiring a dark room with one candle lit in the corner. Brett's voice will haunt you and enlighten you all in one sitting. Horrifically beautiful.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Try 'em At Least Once November 24, 2003
Format:Audio CD
At their frequent best, Handsome Family poke relentlessly into the dark, the obscure and the unknowable of private and collective life on this planet. It is one brave undertaking. You won't be buying this or any other HF CD solely for the music. Brett's baritone vocals drone; the simple loping arrangements (albeit with occasional offbeat instruments like the dobro, melodica, and autoharp) recall nothing so much as the Happy Trails-type theme songs that played during the credits on TV's early-60's Westerns. But that uncluttered ordinariness is the perfect showcase for Rennie's lyrical, often inconclusive, stories. The best of this CD includes a coffee break on a trip through the redwoods that inspires ruminations on a couple's growing estrangement and floating -- in water as learning, in air as suicide (Weightless Again). Cathedrals contrasts man's monumental achievements and his thin moment in time ("everyone of us is swept away like breadcrumbs"). On Stalled, a man stuck in snow (snow, like drinking, is a constant motif to the HF work) grows colder and colder, but never leaves his pickup. Lovers commit dual suicides because -- it seems -- their love is simply too big for life (Down in the Valley of Hollow Logs). My only reservation about the Family is that their bizarreness on occasion comes across as mannered, which -- of course -- makes it a pose, just another suit to try on. The Woman Downstairs is one of two or three songs here to suffer that weakness. That keeps Through the Trees from five star status, but hardly changes my view that there's nobody around quite like Handsome Family, and lucky we are to have them.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If this is country music... I love it. August 3, 2003
Format:Audio CD
What an incredible CD. Haunting. Beautiful. Evocative. Brilliant. Powerful. Disturbing. Melodic. Moody. This CD will make you an instant fan of The Handsome Family and you will have to buy all of their other titles as well. These songs will creep up on you before you know it, and take root deep in your subconcious where they will continue to haunt you like distant memories and old family photos.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunts me like a familiar ghost October 9, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The Handsome Family create some of the most beautifully haunting and twisted music to ever come out of the sleepy midwest. Their songs about the wind through the trees, giant cathedrals and the woman that starved herself to death downstairs all resonate with various shades of blue heartbreak. It's amazing that this husband and wife team can create such haunting and heartbroken dark folk songs, and still stand to look at each other every day.

The songs float around the room like a familiar, yet unpredictable, ghost of a departed loved one. Peaceful and beautiful one moment, violent and frightening the next. But just like the ghost of a loved one, you'll miss them when they're gone, and you'll want to keep raising them from the dead every chance you can.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All My Thumbs Up October 24, 1999
Format:Audio CD
A truly beautiful album. There's a high level of literate musicality here.
There's a great gravelly rubato buckety vocal from Brett Sparks -- sounds like Johnny Cash with a touch of John Goodman in Barton Fink. Wife Rennie shows from the start that she can play anything: bass, keys, autoharp, and a kid's toy instrument called the Melodica, which she makes sound like a pump organ in a big wooden church somewhere in the Shendandoah Valley.
Each song -- lyrics by Rennie, musical crafting by both -- is really a little story. To look at the words on the liner notes is to see not much going on at first; there's a wry dose of banality at the surface, but an ironic twist or two draws you in, plus the gorgeous harmonies and lovely playing: the thing ends up kicking you right in the teeth. (in a nice sort of way)
I like a band that makes me go to the dictionary; this one I would have to call "mordant": incisive, dry, funny and deeply moving, the songs make me wonder: why haven't more people heard of the Handsome Family?
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