The Handsome Family

Invisible Hands

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A limited edition, vinyl only EP by the Chicago-via-Albuquerque alt-country duo the Handsome Family, Invisible Hands has more of a full-band feel than some of the pair's better-known later albums. A full rhythm section appears on half the tunes, giving the opening "Tin Foil" a more rock-oriented sound, almost akin to Uncle Tupelo's work. Even stripped-down songs like "Grandmother Waits for You" feature nice sonic touches like piano and fiddle behind Brett Sparks' vocals and guitar. ("Bury Me Here," for example, has a deep, foreboding twang guitar solo that sounds like it came from one of Lee Hazlewood's late-'60s albums.) Wife and musical partner Rennie Sparks takes a back-seat role here, taking no lead vocals of her own and adding her signature ghostly harmonies only to an extended, funereal version of the traditional ballad "Barbara Allen," whose doomy folk-rock sound recalls Liege & Lief-era Fairport Convention. Invisible Hands doesn't have the Wisconsin Death Trip-style sense of Victorian creepiness that colors some of the Handsome Family's albums, but the lack of stylistic pretensions might make it an easier listen for some.

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