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The Crack Magazine

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The Handsome Family at The Sage

The Handsome Family (with Daniel Knox), Sage Gateshead

Can’t remember how many times I’ve seen the magical musical duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks, but without fail their plangent ballads about death, despair, alternative states of mind and cannibalistic insects lift my spirits and make life feel worth living. Their music has been categorised as Gothic Folk/Blues/Americana, but however you label it, the appeal remains rooted in an outlook both quirky and engagingly miserable, with an option on the macabre. Just to add to the mood this time round, both performers, emerging from lengthy seclusion into their first tour for simply ages, had managed to contract colds that left them all but voiceless and in need of constant swigs of “apple juice” medication. But these songs go well with a croak and a cough, and I don’t know that “So Much Wine”, an account of domestic alcoholism, had ever sounded more convincing. The Sage audience was with them every inch of the way, raw edges and all, drinking up their constantly self-interrupting banter as much as that unique musical take on a world where the fate of the besotted lover is to get gnawed down to his wings. Opening for them, Daniel Knox created the perfect mood of subjective wandering through the darker tunnels of the psyche, with baritone depths of vocal delivery opening doors onto suitably strange interior landscapes and disturbing perspectives.

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