Handsome Family, Anna & Elizabeth | Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Handsome Family, Anna & Elizabeth Recommended All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Sold Out (Music) Soundboard Image

When: Sun., Sept. 18, 7 p.m. 2016

There’s little wonder why Brett and Rennie Sparks named the Handsome Family’s new album Unseen (Virtual Label). In just about every song, the long-running duo detail a hidden entity or force that’s exerting its pull on a sometimes hapless, sometimes acquiescent, sometimes eager protagonist. On “Silver Light” the oxygenated glow of a casino—complemented by free drink refills and an all-you-can-eat buffet—casts an indulgent spell on petty gamblers. “Underneath the Falls” and “The Sea Rose” feature sirenlike underwater seducers, while in “Tiny Tina” a miniature horse at a state fair haunts the narrator because he passed her up to eat funnel cakes, chili dogs, and deep-fried beer and check out the largest ear of corn. Mostly sung by Brett in his beguilingly morose croon, the songs suggest a world in which our best attempts to navigate temptations, disasters, and tricks are perpetually derailed by personal emptiness. The songs rarely reach resolutions or end on positive notes. Rennie’s lyrics pull the listener in with a mix of mordant humor and otherworldly imagery, while tender melodies set to elegant, rootsy arrangements work to heighten the album’s magnetism. Aside from a track like “The Red Door,” which includes flourishes of vintage R&B, the band seldom veers from its formula, but somehow it remains fresh. Tomorrow the pair will conduct a workshop across the street titled “Words & Music With the Handsome Family.”

Peter Margasak

Price: sold out

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