Friday, December 1, 2023

The Handsome Family at Shank Hall in Milwaukee on July 17, 2018

It's hard to believe that the last time that the Handsome Family performed in Milwaukee was at this show from the summer of 2018.

I'm a very big fan of the work of Brett and Rennie Sparks. I think they have written a half dozen songs which will still be on people's minds in a hundred years. Rennie is certainly one of (if not the) best lyricist working today. Her work is rich with unexpected images and rich symbolism. 

The Sparks specialize in a sort of American Gothic version Americana (or alt-country). Like Grant Woods' painting, their songs can at first seem ordinary. But there is often a sinister or absurdly frightening aspect underneath. "Oh, there's a hole in my backyard" is a somewhat normal sort of thing to think. But in the Sparks' hands, the narrator of the song "Bottomless Hole" soon finds himself hurtling down a bottomless hole, forever.

In the years 1993-96 I lived in Chicago and used to see the Handsome Family at venues like the legendary and much-missed Lounge Ax. Shank Hall is not quite as legendary, but their sound system is excellent and no one at the venue bothered me about bringing my recording gear in.

On this set of songs, the Sparks are accompanied by Alex MacMahon and Jason Toth.

Recording information:

Milwaukee, WI at Shank Hall

Brett Sparks: guitar, vocals
Rennie Sparks: banjo, bass, vocals
Alex MacMahon: guitar, baritone guitar, pedal steel
Jason Toth: drums

01 My Sister’s Tiny Hands
02 So Much Wine
03 Stalled
04 Weightless Again
05 Banter - Something Big and Something Little
06 Cathedrals
07 Up Falling Rock Hill
08 The Giant of Illinois
09 The Woman Downstairs
10 Far From Any Road
11 Banter - Roving Bands of Hobos in Albuquerque 
12 Owls
13 Bottomless Hole
14 The Loneliness of Magnets
15 Banter - Who Here Is Afraid of Tunnels
16 In the Air
17 24-hour Store

Microphones: Beyerdynamic MC930 (cardioid) ORTF
Recorder: Sound Devices MixPre 6 at 24/48
Software: Audacity, Fission, xAct


these lossless files can be burned to CDR, if you are into that

highest quality lossy mp3 files possible 

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