Live Review: The Handsome Family/Courtney Marie Andrews

Last week, this picture popped up on my Facebook feed. In short, it recycles an old and often repeated claim about what the very highest level of musical taste is – that is, to like “everything except rap and country”. I’m going to have to leave that extremely dodgy sweeping generalisation about rap aside for now, because it’s country music, not rap, that I’m here to listen to tonight. But this is not just any country music. We are, after all, at the RNCM, distinguished Conservatoire, and host to high art luminaries from around the world. This is fancy country music. I’m here to see Brett and Rennie Sparks, husband and wife alternative country music duo, who release music under the name The Handsome Family. While I wait for my uncle Mark (the most handsome family member I could convince to come with me) to get here , I ask the two friendly women who have asked to share my table in the RNCM café how they heard of The Handsome Family. Their first encounter with the music was through creepy American crime drama series True Detective. The Handsome Family song ‘Far From Any Road’ was the theme tune to series one, and was a perfect fit – sinister, swampy, gothic Americana. I suspect this story is the same for many people here, although the band had had a cult following long before this. Looking around the café, there are plenty of typical “country music fan” signifiers about – flannel shirts, indulgent beards, and, pleasingly, both trucker and cowboy hats. I think back to the Facebook meme and wonder what it is about The Handsome Family that sets them apart from your typical country band.