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The Handsome Family review: They embellished the songs with energy and emotion not heard on the record

PUBLISHED: 12:18 21 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:18 21 March 2018

Country and Americana duo The Handsome Family performing live. Photo: Jesse Littlebird

Country and Americana duo The Handsome Family performing live. Photo: Jesse Littlebird

Jesse Littlebird

The Handsome Family returned to Norwich, delivering a unique and memorable rendition of their breakthrough album Through The Trees released 20 years ago.

The Handsome Family performing at The Watefront in Norwich. Photo: Patrick WiddessThe Handsome Family performing at The Watefront in Norwich. Photo: Patrick Widdess

The affection between husband and wife Brett and Rennie Sparks was evident as soon as they took to the stage gently mocking themselves and each other.

It was an upbeat contrast to opening song Weightless Again which Rennie explained, in one of many insights into her songwriting, had started as a song about wood carvings and ended up being about suicide.

There were a few issues with levels and some bumpy moments in the first couple of songs but they soon hit their stride with two fellow musicians juggling multiple instruments to reproduce Brett’s rich accompaniments to Rennie’s lyrics.

Cathedrals was embellished with elaborate slide guitar and Down in the Ground was unrepentantly raucous with growling, howling and clattering percussion.

By the time they reached side two of the album any sticking points had been smoothed over and the four musicians reached new heights. They embellished the songs with energy and emotion not heard on the record.

Down In The Valley of Hollow Logs had the passion of a band twice the size. I Fell was a haunting cinematic lullaby and Last Night I Went Out Walking had the room spellbound. The magic didn’t fade until the last notes of final song, My Ghost, rang out.

The band gave an encore with couple of songs from 2003 album Singing Bones, The Bottomless Hole which segued into their most famous song Far From Any Road from the TV series True Detective. Most fans would not have been disappointed if they had not played it.

They have many equally good if less well known songs to choose from, but it was an absolutely cracking rendition. Brett and Rennie’s tender duet was accompanied by extraordinary guitar work and multilayered effects and melodies.

They closed with Too Much Wine – the melancholy ode to alcoholism being greeted with whoops and cheers.

Rennie said at the start that it was amazing they were still going and still married after so long but tonight they showed strength of character and creativity in their songs which are made to last.


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