7

– Spring/Summer 2003

A Family of Two

Eric Steinman

Twilinght (sleeve artwork), CD, Carrot Top Records, Ireland; Trocadero, Europe, September 2001. Courtecy of the artists.

Twilinght (sleeve artwork), CD, Carrot Top Records, Ireland; Trocadero, Europe, September 2001. Courtecy of the artists.

Husband-and-wife duo The Handsome Family delve into the lore of traditional Americana and first-hand accounts of a modern urban dystopia. Wife, Rennie Sparks, is a short-story writer and artist who provides the narrative muscle for the duo, whereas husband, Brett Sparks, supplies the voice and musical backbone for her somber and meditative ballads. Nearly all of their recordings are captured alongside the TV in their living room in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Whenever Paul thinks of snow, soft winds blow round his head and his phone
rings just once late at night - like a bird calling out, "Wake up, Paul. Don't
be scared. Don't believe you're all alone'.

- The Handsome Family, 'Don't be Scared'

At 6:30AM the black handle of the wall-mounted dial phone begins to tremble along the caramel-coloured kitchen wall. The untouched silence of the morning is being hacked away by this low, blistering ring that originates from the late-afternoon whim of a booking agent in Edinburgh, Scotland. Since moving to Albuquerque, Brett and Rennie Sparks of The Handsome Family have suffered the curse of moving to a town without a recognised time zone; a place somewhere between London and Los Angeles that is always estimated to share the same moment on the clock with New York. But as the Manhattan subway system is being filled to its morning capacity, only the pointed tips of the Ponderosa Pines are illuminated by the New Mexico sun, and Brett and Rennie allow the hollows of an anonymous ring to slip through the looming daybreak.

Rennie continues to dream of transcontinental journeys that take her far from her husband and back again before the morning