If there’s one Americana band who’s creative output fits the aesthetic of listening to music on vinyl, then surely it’s The Handsome Family? Rennie & Brett Sparks and their collaborators have being releasing quality albums steadily since 1984’s debut Odessa, the latest Unseen is their tenth studio album and another must have for connoisseurs of a sub-genres that one could file under Western Gothic or Country Noir, truth is of course these labels only sign-post the potential listener to what’s in store for them should they wish to delve deeper into the “intriguing surrealist lyricism which, explores the unseen stories, people and places of the American west”.
Following a familiar creative path Rennie provides the lyrics (plays banjo and autoharp), Brett the music, instrumentation and recording at the Sparks home studio, – with assistance by collaborators David Gutierrez (mandolin & dobro), Alex MacMahon (guitar,baritone guitar & pedal steel) and Jason Toth (drums).
I’m sure there are those who’ll contest my opening statement but in order to do so you’re going to have to get hold Unseen on vinyl and try it out for yourself – the good folks at Loose will sort you out.
Perhaps currently best known for being Damien Jurado’s lead guitarist, Courtney Marie Andrews has been on the road since she was 16 years old, when she left home in Arizona for her first tour. She travelled up and down the West Coast, busking and playing any bars or cafés that would have her. Soon after she took a Greyhound bus four nights straight from Phoenix to New York to do the same on the East Coast. For a decade or so since, Courtney’s been a session and backup singer and guitarist for nearly 40 artists but has never stopped writing her own material. Picking up admirers like Damien Jurado and Ryan Adams along the way, she has quietly earned a reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter.
Courtney explains how the lyrics of “How Quickly Your Heart Mends” are based upon a lady she met whilst working at a small town bar: “During my bartending shifts I had met this woman many times. She is beautiful, but still somehow she searches for love that is a faded red, white and blue. In some ways she is strong for enduring so much heartbreak. In other ways she is naive for believing that love can save her and that it’s hers to own. I’ve always been drawn to the flaws in my characters because that is what makes them more relatable and more human.”
As the song goes “The jukebox is playin’ a sad country song / For all the ugly Americans / Now I feel like one of them / Dancin’ alone and broken by the freedom”. It’s really no wonder Ryan Adams called Courtney Marie Andrews “a phenomenal songwriter”.
“How Quickly Your Heart Mends” is released 26th August 2016 and is taken from Courtney Marie Andrew’s forthcoming album “Honest Life”, out 20th January on Loose and available to pre-order now on 180g turquoise vinyl, CD & download.
Unseen, the new album from The Handsome Family, will be released 16th September on Loose. Available on 180g pond green vinyl, CD and download.