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Singing Bones

4.6 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 7, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

2003 release, the sixth studio album from the Alt-Country/Americana outfit. The Handsome Family were formed in 1993 by husband and wife duo Brett Sparks and Rennie Sparks. 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. The album features musical assistance from Darrel Sparks, Greg Hansen, David McChensey, Tony Watkins and Dave Gutierrez.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 7, 2003)
  • Original Release Date: 2003
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Carrot Top Records
  • ASIN: B0000CD5FC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,815 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Andrew Johnstone on November 3, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I came across the Handsome Family by way of an interview on National Radio(Radio New Zealand). I pulled into the motel car park dead tired after driving for 16 long hours, yet remained sitting in the car mesmerised by the strange and evocative music pouring into the car from the rain sodden night. Once in the motel room I logged onto Amazon and purchased Singing Bones.

The next morning I opened my eyes and watched the wardrobe sway around in a dreamlike fashion, much like the music I had heard the night before. Later on the news I discovered that I had experienced an earthquake. In the end it was my wife who claimed ownership of the CD, and she has played it constantly ever since and our 6yr old daughter knows the words to all the songs. What a great discovery, fresh pure music, greatly cherished by this family.
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Format: Audio CD
Any Handsome Family album is worth your while. This is their first album since leaving Chicago and moving to the Southwest. The change is noticeable in the fact that they seemed to have gone back to simpler melodies and arrangements.Subject mater is still vitage stuff from this brilliant duo. Overall, it seems like an old fashioned Handsome Family album. Gets better with every listen. My current favorite is the haunting, "A Shadow Underneath." If you are already a fan, you won't be let down.
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Format: Audio CD
Husband and wife duo the Handsome Family has been making music for almost a decade that is somewhere between alt-country and traditionalist music. Brett Sparks is from Texas where he studied music. He moved to Chicago with his wife Rennie Sparks, a fiction writer originally from Long Island. Their music deals with dark themes and dark humor.
The Handsome Family's debut album, Odessa, was released in January 1995. This folk record was a home recording with a punk influence. Their second record, Milk and Scissors (1996), led to tours with Wilco, and more shows in Europe. Years later Brett was hospitalized with depression. Through the Trees (1998), the Handsome Family's third album was written and recorded in the aftermath of this time. This became their most successful record yet.
Around this time, they quit their day jobs and worked on their music full time. The result was In the Air (2000), which was another great record. The Handsome Family played several tours of America and Europe. A live record was released soon after. In the last part of this past year they released Singing Bones (2003). This record returned to early sounds and expanded their audience. It was voted as one of the best records of 2003 by Free Williamsburg.
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Format: Audio CD
What else can I say? Her lyrics contrast visionary, sometimes somewhat morbid settings with closely observed, incongruous detail. My favourite narrative from this record is "Song of a Hundred Toads," in which a string of disasters ---
Round a hairpin turn
The wagon tumbled o'er
And down the jagged rocks
Bill fell with all I owned.
--- leaves a man stranded in a desert, only as his final night falls to be greeted by the epiphany of the title: the song of a hundred toads. "The Bottomless Hole" strikes an H. P. Lovecraft note, but Lovecraft with a difference: it seems it's -useful- to have a bottomless pit behind your barn, even if you end up obsessed with the urge to explore it.
Moving to New Mexico seems to have added some new, somewhat more upbeat "western" seeming rhythms and chord changes to Brett's music. There are occasional touches of Spanish guitars, and on one song even a trumpet. The musical saw on "24 Hour Store" is another instrumental highlight.
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Format: Audio CD
For me this is the most satisfying Handsome Family CD the Sparks' have yet released. Moving from Chicago to New Mexico seems to have broadened their unique, but sometimes claustrophic vision. If the lyric themes remain constant (and they do -- there are plenty of dead people singing), they are packaged in a consistent sound that could have been lifted from an old Marty Robbins record and speaks of space, solitude and often harsh beauty. Conspicuous desert imagery drives several cuts, including the wonderfully sad Gail with the Golden Hair, Far From Any Road and The Song of a Hundred Toads.
The Family's world is at once colored with our thousands of ordinary moments, inhabited by the collective experience of those who have preceded us on the planet (Fallen Peaches), and drawn to the alluring not-yet-known, that sense that there is another world just at the corner of your vision. Thus, in 24 Hour Store, ghosts open and close the automatic sliding doors. On The Bottomless Hole, Rennie gets off one of her best lyric turns, "My name I don't remember/Though I hail from Ohio/I had a wife and children/Good tires on my car...," as the singer's obsession leads him to, literally and with his wife's quite willing assistance, cut away all ties to earth's surface and tumble "in a claw-foot tub" through a pit with no end. And just in case after all this you have any remaining doubts that Handsome Family's vision is not exactly short-term, they very kindly make it explicit for you in their terrific cover of the spiritual Old Bones and, even more, the twin pieces If the World Should End in Fire and If the World Should End in Ice.
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