The Handsome Family’s Scattered

cover artScattered is the Handsome Family’s second collection of demos, B sides, covers and the like. The first was 2002’s Smothered And Covered. This new disc has a generous 19 tracks, fairly evenly divided between covers and originals. The covers include the scary old hymn “The Lost Soul,” and “Ain’t No Grave,” a powerful old gospel song; and the duo’s inimitable renditions of some iconic pop songs: Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” (my favorite of the covers), Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway,” Jim Reeves’s “The Blizzard” and the Blue Sky Boys’ “What Does the Deep Sea Say?” If you sense any common themes in those songs, welcome to the world of the Handsome Family.

The originals, too, are of two types; those from the early 1990s when Brett and Rennie Sparks were still thinking of themselves as post-punk indie rockers, and those written and recorded after they settled into their gothic Americana identity. Of the former, the best is a demo of Brett’s “One Way Up,” which sounds even more like a great lost R.E.M. song than the version that ended up on their debut Odessa. “Telephones and Telescopes,” sounds like another R.E.M. song, this one an outtake from Monster. This group also includes the caustic “Little Buddy,” the surf instrumental “Honcho,” the slashing “Claire Said,” and the melancholy “Tranquilized.”

More recent fare includes the portrait of Chicago, “When it Rains,” an outtake from 2001’s Twilight; “Drinking Beer on the Roof,” an alternate version of a digital-only track released with 2008’s Honey Moon; an alternate take of “June Bugs,” also from Honey Moon, and a couple of songs written for others’ projects — “Snowball” about a jumping horse, from a 2002 children’s record, and “A Plague of Humans” from a 2007 London plague-themed show.

For more info, see the Handsome Family’s website or Facebook page.

(The Handsome Family, 2010)

Gary Whitehouse

A fifth-generation Oregonian, Gary is a retired journalist and government communicator. Since the 1990s he has been covering music, books, food & drink and occasionally films, blogs and podcasts for Green Man Review. His main literary interests for GMR are science fiction, music lore, and food & cooking. A lifelong lover of music, his interests are wide ranging and include folk, folk rock, jazz, Americana, classic country, and roots based music from all over the world. He also enjoys dogs, birding, cooking, craft beer, and coffee.

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