Over the course of their six full length albums, the Handsome Family's husband/wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks have carved a niche for themselves as exquisite purveyors of American Gothic folk and that string remains intact on the pair's seventh album.
Rennie's dark and cryptically obvious short-story lyrics are still the Handsomes' centerpiece, lovingly spotlit by Brett's eerily appropriate musical accompaniment. "These Golden Jewels" is Teutonic bluegrass, like a cross between Tom Waits and R. Crumb, in the service of a love letter best left unsent ("I drove circles in the meadow, threw TVs off a cliff/I scattered dirty needles in a grassy ditch..."), while "After We Shot the Grizzly" tells the tale of a doomed expedition in gruesome detail ("The captain caught a fever, we tied him to a tree/We stared into the fire and tried not to hear his screams...") while lilting along on a gentle Western swing groove. It is that incredible tension between message and delivery, balancing the feel of ancient murder ballads and the reality of disaffected contemporary life, that has distinguished the Handsome Family's work over the past decade. Brett and Rennie Sparks hone that difference to a razor's edge here, the best Handsome Family set to date.