HANDSOME FAMILY NEWS....

      APRIL, 2014—

Welcome FRIENDS, old and new, to a tale of ancient oceans & future tour dates. Herein find the story of the TRILOBITE as well as the little waves made by THE HANDSOME FAMILY as we sail the invisible sea of song....

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EUROPEAN TOUR DATES APRIL/MAY 2014
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Half a billion years ago, long before the age of humans or of dinosaurs, our world was covered in TRILOBITES. For 300 million years they were the dominant species on Earth. In comparison, there are only traces of humans going back about 200,000 years. It's hard to imagine that we might continue on for another 299 million years or even for another one million years when already it seems that all the trees along the highways of America are fluttering with plastic bags. Trilobites were marine invertebrates with hard exoskeletons covering rows of segmented legs. They may have been the ancient ancestors of the horseshoe crab. I grew up on a stretch of the Long Island shore that was teeming with horseshoe crabs. We often found carved stone arrow-heads lying in the sand and once I found the remains of a covered wagon in the woods. I also found a stolen ten-speed bike and a half-drunk bottle of vodka.
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 CANADIAN FESTIVAL, JUNE, 2014
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Researchers have found evidence that TRILOBITES were highly social creatures. They migrated long distances in a head-to-tail procession and gathered in huge numbers to mate. It appears that trilobites molted off their carapaces to copulate. Sexual selection was competitive. Scientists believe that some of the more extreme features found in trilobite fossils— oversized head horns, curlicued shoulder spines, eyestalks that extend upward like periscopes — were male features designed to do nothing else but attract the female eye. Speaking of eyes— trilobite eyes had a unique structure not found in any other living creature. Their lenses were built of calcite crystals. They literally had, 'a stony stare'. Each of their eyes held hundreds of tiny crystals, arranged in a honeycomb pattern. Trilobite eyes worked best in low light. Scientists believe this was because trilobites often retreated into deep water and mud to escape predators. I wonder if perhaps it just felt good to dive down into the mud? I used to love to bury my legs in the sand at the beach and then slowly pull them free.

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USA DATES  JULY/AUGUST/SEPTEMBER, 2014
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Time passed quickly for TRILOBITES. The length of Earth days has been increasing ever since our moon was formed. Before we had a moon it is estimated that our days lasted only 2-3 hours, but the moon's tug has gradually slowed down the Earth's turning as the moon pulls away. A trilobite-era day probably lasted about 20 hours. One day in the future the moon will break free of us. I don't know how long days will be after that, but I do know that we are all destined to be reunited— trilobites, dinosaurs, humans, plastic bags and moons— at the edge of infinity when our universe is done exploding.

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More EUROPEAN dates in October
Including Norway, Spain and more! Details to come.
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TRILOBITE bodies were segmented so they could roll up into protective balls to defend against predators or rough sea currents. Three-banded Brazilian armadillos can curl up into a ball to protect themselves from predators, but most armadillos instead jump into the air when threatened thus making them even more likely to be hit by oncoming cars. Armadillos the size of small cars once foraged prehistoric South America. This was long after the trilobites had passed into fossils and long after the great ocean retreated that once covered the New Mexican desert where I am typing these words. You can still find seashell fossils embedded in the high cliffs of the Sandia mountains around Albuquerque. On a clear day you can see for hundreds of miles. The sky is blue the whole way.

xo Rennie
PS: Hope to see you at a show.








 

READ ARCHIVES of The Handsome Family Newsletter
including thoughts on parsley, wildebeests, pyramid magic and more...
 
 
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ARCHIVES
... Ancient missives from our castle below the sea

JANUARY, 2014—True Detective and the Talking Cactus
NOVEMBER, 2013—The Secret Pain of Boiled Peas
OCTOBER, 2013—Tesla hears distant fire
JUNE, 2013—Worm charming
APRIL, 2013—17-year Cicadas
FEBRUARY, 2013—Caterpillars
OCTOBER, 2012- Haunted Houses
JULY, 2012- Sad News, Cockroach love
MAY, 2012-turtles
JUNE, 2011-great apes
APRIL, 2011-ancient Dionysian parade
JANUARY, 2011-sea monsters
SEPTEMBER, 2010-wildebeest
MAY, 2010-crows
APRIL, 2010-termites
JANUARY, 2010-sharks
SEPTEMBER, 2009-jellyfish
NOVEMBER, 2008-hollow earth
OCTOBER, 2008-pendulum power

FEBRUARY, 2008-carribean cruise
NOVEMBER, 2007-17th-century dinner party
JUNE, 2007-woodpeckers
JANUARY, 2007-salamanders
SEPTEMBER, 2006-wyrding witches
AUGUST, 2006-animals attack
JUNE, 2006-parsley
APRIL, 2006-bubbles
SEPTEMBER, 2005-18th-century health tonics
JUNE, 2005-spirit bottles
APRIL, 2005-psychic attack
FEBRUARY, 2005-Mr. Nobody
SEPTEMBER, 2004-current delusions
AUGUST, 2004-mysterious shoes
APRIL, 2004-xerxes and octopus
AUGUST, 2003-thousand-year old eggs, pyramid power
MAY, 2003-planet X
AUGUST, 2002-automatic writing
JUNE, 2002-current fears
MARCH, 2002-ghost tapes
DECEMBER, 2001-tour diary
SEPTEMBER, 2001-mountain-man diet
MARCH, 2001-chicago vs. albuquerque












January, 2014
THE SONG:             Far From Any Road
THE ALBUM:         Singing Bones
THE TV SHOW:     True Detective
                      Thank you HBO!

Buy it:  iTUNES

Greetings to far-flung friends and cactus lovers...
 
If you've seen the HBO show "True Detective" then you may have noticed that they've chosen our song, "Far From Any Road" for their opening sequence. Many new fans have written asking us to explain the 'meaning' of this song. There is, of course, a simple answer to this question, but it involves imbibing the boiled pulp of the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus. Herein find our latest TOUR DATES as well as a guide to what you may expect with your first San Pedro cactus experience (recipe not included)...

 
USA TOUR DATES:
 

The San Pedro cactus has been used since ancient times. In Peru the tradition is unbroken for over 3,000 years. The earliest depiction of the cactus is a carving from about 1300 bc. The Quechua name for it is 'punku' which means ‘doorway’.  One user described his San Pedro experience this way at erowid.org: "We decided to visit the cactus greenhouse. What met us was a buzzing flux of life that held us spellbound for about half hour – we literally stood leaning over the handrail stroking various cacti in mute appreciative silence. It was like we could tangibly feel their life force – they somehow seemed wise and at the same time sad, as if being in such an artificial environment had sapped them of some vital force. They reminded me of caged animals in a zoo. All of them appeared to be moving and vibrating and whispering to us and to each other – I got quite a few spines in my fingers as I stood there stroking and marveling at them..."
 
EUROPEAN TOUR DATES

 
San Pedro cactus, according to its users, is a teacher plant. It teaches the user that there is no such thing as an inanimate object. Everything in the universe is alive and has a spirit. I hope our songs can be 'teachers' too (and without the need for extensive boiling of cactus pulp or the risk of many small needles embedded in your skin).
 
Thanks to all of our friends, old and new, for the kind words regarding our foray into HBO land.  May we all (even those without premium cable channels) find ourselves listening to whispers in the moon's light tonight. We need not sip magic cactus juice in order to see the beauty of the stars.
 
xo Rennie

 





November, 2013
Greetings fellow traveler, today THE HANDSOME FAMILY embarks on a journey down the west coast of North America and considers deeply the heart of the carrot and the pea...
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Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was born in 1858 in what is today Bangladesh. Bose was a physicist, a biologist, a botanist, and an archaeologist. He was the first person from the Indian subcontinent to receive a U.S. patent, and is considered one of the fathers of radio science. Around 1900, Bose began his investigations into the secret world of plants.

Bose invented a machine called the crescograph which recorded the minute movements of a plant's leaves or roots in reaction to various stimuli. He found that all plants, and all parts of plants, have a sensitive nervous system not unlike that of animals. Some plant reactions can be seen easily in plants like the Mimosa, which, when irritated, will react with the sudden shedding or shrinking of its leaves. But when Bose attached his crescograph to plants from which it was more difficult to witness a response he was astounded to discover that they, too, became excited when vexed. All around us, Bose realized, plants are communicating. We just don't see it...

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NOVEMBER, WEST COAST TOUR DATES:

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Bose discovered that an electric death spasm occurs in plants when they die, and that the actual moment of death in a plant could be accurately recorded. The electromotive force generated during the death spasm is sometimes considerable. Bose calculated that a pea, for instance, could discharge up to a volt of electricity as it died. Thus, if 500 peas were arranged in a series, the electric pressure would be 500 volts, enough to seriously injure a human being. Bose wrote. “It is fortunate for [the average cook] that boiling peas are not arranged in series!”

His 1902 paper “Responses in the Living and Non-Living” contains a chapter comparing the electrical impulse response of the skins of a frog, a lizard, and a tortoise to the skins of tomatoes and grapes. He found few differences. Bose found that plants grew more quickly when exposed to nice music and gentle whispers, and more slowly when exposed to harsh music and loud speech. Plant growth was also slowed by exposure to polluted air or even the passing of dark clouds across the sky...

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DEC 4: Rennie's lecture at The New School, NYC
Rennie will talk about wildebeest, termites and the songs of Stephen Foster with
special singing guest, Brett Sparks!

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Bose believed in the fundamental unity of all life, both plant and animal tissue as well as the fundamental unity of all matter. Bose was the first scientist to study inorganic matter in the same way a biologist examines a muscle or a nerve. Bose found that, just like plants, the “non-living” responded when subjected to mechanical, thermal, and electrical stimuli.

Bose never sought to convince humans of some fundamental 'humanness' within all matter. Rather he sought to show humans that considering the commonalities between all matter in our universe offers us a deeper sense of the real connections between our own living cells and that of the particles that surround us.

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NEXT YEAR: Dates in Europe for March and May are in the works!

xo Rennie

PS. parts of these amazing Bose facts were taken from an article by Stefany Anne Golberg at www.thesmartset.com























































October, 2013
Gentle Reader, herein find HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES & DOINGS as well as strange symptoms of genius that plagued NIKOLA TESLA...

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My sight and hearing were always extraordinary. I could clearly discern objects in the distance when others saw no trace of them. Several times in my boyhood I saved the houses of our neighbors from fire by hearing the faint crackling sounds which did not disturb their sleep... In 1899, when I was past forty and carrying on my experiments in Colorado, I could hear very distinctly thunderclaps at a distance of 550 miles...In Budapest I could hear the ticking of a watch with three rooms between me and the time-piece. A fly alighting on a table in the room would cause a dull thud in my ear. A carriage passing at a distance of a few miles fairly shook my whole body. The whistle of a locomotive twenty or thirty miles away made the bench or chair on which I sat vibrate so strongly that the pain was unbearable. The ground under my feet trembled continuously. I had to support my bed on rubber cushions to get any rest at all...The sun's rays, when periodically intercepted, would cause blows of such force on my brain that they would stun me. I had to summon all my will power to pass under a bridge or other structure as I experienced a crushing pressure on the skull. In the dark I had the sense of a bat and could detect the presence of an object at a distance of twelve feet by a peculiar creepy sensation on the forehead. My pulse varied from a few to two hundred and sixty beats and all the tissues of the body quivered with twitchings and tremors ...A renowned physician who gave me daily large doses of Bromide of Potassium pronounced my malady unique and incurable...
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HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES!


EEL GUITAR & FROG GUITAR: Hopefully by late November Rennie will have for sale the first in a series of painted electric guitars that feature creatures from, "Wilderness" (also a few paintings for sale). As always, Rennie still accepts commissioned portrait work of beloved animals and humans. You can email her for further info.

EUROPE: We're working on tour dates in March and in May of 2014 for many areas of Europe.

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One afternoon I was enjoying a walk with my friend in the City Park and reciting poetry. At that age I knew entire books by heart, word for word. One of these was Goethe's "Faust." The sun was just setting and reminded me of the glorious passage:

The glow retreats, done is the day of toil;
It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring;
Ah, that no wing can lift me from the soil
Upon its track to follow, follow soaring!
A glorious dream! though now the glories fade.
Alas! the wings that lift the mind no aid
Of wings to lift the body can bequeath me.

As I uttered these inspiring words the idea came like a flash of lightning...I drew with a stick on the sand the diagrams shown six years later in my address before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers...The images I saw were wonderfully sharp and clear and had the solidity of metal and stone, so much so that I told my companion: "See my motor here; watch me reverse it." I cannot begin to describe my emotions.

from, "MY INVENTIONS" by Nikola Tesla, 1919, Electrical Experimenter Magazine 





JUNE, 2013

Greetings Surface Dwellers! Herein find subterranean news of THE HANDSOME FAMILY as well as a beginner's guide to the ancient art of WORM CHARMING....
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WORM CHARMING, worm grunting, and worm fiddling are all methods of attracting earthworms up from the ground. Methods of worm charming usually involve vibrating the soil to call worms to the surface. Often this is done by sticking a pitchfork in the ground and rocking it back and forth. One contestant at the World Worm Charming Championship in Cheshire, UK; however, was seen tap-dancing on a wooden plank to the theme from Star Wars in attempts to call worms. Another contestant hit a xylophone with glass bottles. The current world champion worm-charmer is 14-year-old Sophie Smith of Willaston, UK who raised 567 worms during Britain's 2009 World Worm Charming Championship. All worms were returned to the ground after the contest.
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HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES...JUNE, JULY, BEYOND
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WORM GRUNTING refers to the use of a wooden stake that is driven into the ground, and a piece of metal which is used to rub the stake. Worm grunting can be done with a chain saw. The chain is taken off the saw and the blade is stuck into the ground to vibrate. Worm fiddling involves sticking a pitchfork into the ground and then 'twanging' the handle. It is also called, 'worm snoring'. These days, large earthworms are not generally caught at the two worm fiddling contests held in Florida. Jack Palmer of Alabama explained, "When I was a little boy they were huge, don't know what happened. of course, in those days there weren't no armadillos. I just don't know what happened to them, they just aren't there no more. I call them little sand worms now, the ones snored up now."
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MORE STUFF...
Rennie's article on SONGWRITING in the New York Times!

DOWNLOAD Rennie's book, "Wilderness" for Kindle

Take a gander at our new merch....
POSTER, POSTCARDS, TROUT SHIRT

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SCIENTISTS theorize that vibrations made by worm charming mimic the sound of digging moles and so cause a 'pronounced escape response' in earthworms. Moles eat earthworms and so, the worms, hearing what they think is an approaching mole are actually running for their life (or as close to running as worms can get). Both wood turtles and herring gulls also vibrate the ground to elicit worm flight response. Wood turtles stomp on the ground. Gulls paddle their feet in muddy pools of water. Both the gulls and the turtles eat earthworms. Humans who have eaten earthworms are reported to have developed parasites causing extensive organ damage. Other known side effects of eating earthworms are low mood, occasional vomiting and what one doctor could only describe as, 'wordlessness'. Earthworms eat dirt. They pull nutrients from the soil that are pieces of decaying roots and leaves as well as animal manure, bacteria, fungi, and decomposing flesh. Some earthworms come up out of the earth at night and pull fallen leaves down into their burrows. They wait for the leaf to soften and then eat it. I once ate the apple of a prickly pear and heard voices whispering just behind my ear for nearly two hours. What did the voices say you might ask? I believe they were saying, "Worms, worms, worms... Sometimes even worms are afraid."
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xo Rennie

PS. Please tell friends about our upcoming tour dates! Hope to see you at our next show! Unlike the earthworm that survives on dirt. We survive on word of mouth, one ear at a time, passing our songs along. Thank you!

PPS. The 34th World Worm Charming Championships are being held at 2pm on Saturday 22nd June 2013 at Willaston County Primary School, Willaston, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 6QQ. Good luck!










APRIL, 2013... THE NIGHT OF EMERGENCE APPROACHES...

Across the eastern USA CICADAS will soon emerge from the soil after 17 years of life underground.
THE HANDSOME FAMILY, too, is preparing to leave off its diet of liquid extruded from tree roots and emerge, at last, into the air. Herein, friends, find tips to differentiate between these two naturally-occuring phenomena as well as NEWS and TOUR DATES for THE HANDSOME FAMILY...
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Wilderness... released May 14, PRE-ORDER NOW!
WILDERNESS, THE CD: the new Handsome Family album (or VINYL LP w/ free digital download). Tall tales, mountain legends, amazing animals and historic figures all twine their way through our new forest of songs.
WILDERNESS, THE BOOK: Essays and art by Rennie that expand on the songs of "Wilderness" and lead off on further journeys through ant spirals, octopus dances, immortal jellyfish, and more.
WILDERNESS, THE BOX SET:  Includes "Wilderness" LP (with free digital download) as well as a full-color, 12" x12" version of "Wilderness" book, exclusive poster and postcards, all with art by Rennie.
NEW SHIRT: as if that isn't enough we also have a new jumping trout shirt for sale with art drawn by Rennie!
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While both THE HANDSOME FAMILY and the CICADA are spotted above soil only in cycles of prime numbers, are not able to sing merely by popping muscles in their abdomen as is the THE HANDSOME FAMILYCICADA. Females of both species flick their wings in response to song, but only the 17-year CICADA is capable of laying 600 eggs within a small crevice dug into tree bark. While THE HANDSOME FAMILY will not damage tree bark, it will ruin a suitcase fairly quickly and is often found attempting to check into B&Bs at 3am and then dragging said suitcase up three flights of narrow stairs lined with milkmaid figurines on a fruitless quest to find its ground floor room.
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MAY TOUR DATES IN THE UK AND USA

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While both CICADAS and THE HANDSOME FAMILY have red eyes, only the CICADA has a smaller groupings of three, jewel-like eyes situated between their two main eyes to help to detect light and dark. THE HANDSOME FAMILY can not see a guitar pick dropped on the floor in broad daylight. Do not stare directly into the eyes of either creature. Victims of such impromptu staring contests have found themselves 'coming to' high in the creaking branches of old sycamores with no ladder in sight.
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JUNE AND JULY TOUR DATES IN THE USA
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CICADAS do not sting or bite. If caught, males make a loud defensive buzzing sound that may startle. THE HANDSOME FAMILY is equally defenseless and will emit a high-pitched keening when cornered and asked, "How's the tour going?" Such catcalls as, "Play Weightless Again, again!" or "Play that sad song about drinking or that other sad song about drinking!" will result in much wing-flicking, but ultimately will not cause changes in beard length or beer consumption.
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AUGUST, BOOK-SIGNING.... August 21, 7pm, FREE. At Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM. Book-signing party for "Wilderness". Brett and Rennie will strum songs that go with chapters in the book.
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Adult CICADAS have orange wing veins, with a black "W" near the tips of the forewings. THE HANDSOME FAMILY sheds its shirt nightly and leaves the garment on a hook on the inside of bathroom doors when checking out of hotel rooms the next day. Eventually THE HANDSOME FAMILY will run out of shirts and must clothe itself entirely from apparel sold at motorway rest stops (often depicting one or several wolves howling at a full moon).
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FUTURE TOUR DATES:
West coast USA dates to come ASAP. Also more european dates and hopefully Australia and NZ coming too!
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CICADAS achieve astounding population densities, as high as 1.5 million per acre. Population densities are so high that predators can eat their fill without significantly reducing the population. Dogs gorge themselves. Squirrels will eat them like corn on the cob. Fish go crazy for them, too — you can use them as bait, or use lures that mimic them. THE HANDSOME FAMILY make poor fish bait nor are they known to attract squirrels or dogs. They will, however, attract flocks of yellow finches to perch upon all their equipment as they play their songs. Most of these finches are completely invisible to the human eye, but will show up some months later in digital photos of the band.
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We'd love to see you and yours at our shows. Bring invisible finches!
xo Rennie




FEBRUARY, 2013
GREETINGS rounders and rogues, friends all. Today let us ponder the mysterious CATERPILLAR as well as new horizons upon the shores of THE HANDSOME FAMILY...
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In 1850, a naturalist was arrested in Spain for suggesting that caterpillars and butterflies were the same species. Such a preposterous idea was deemed heresy. What mad creator could forge a flying beauty from a crawling worm? Yet the cocoon is a shape that resembles the greatest creative powers of our universe — from the atom bursting with particles to planets hiding great fires within their core. Was our Big Bang a bursting cocoon? What creature spun a massless, timeless skin around its flesh then emerged to spread wings into the fabric of the infinite universe?
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HANDSOME FAMILY HAPPENINGS...
ALBUQUERQUE:
    MARCH 9, FREE SHOW— "Americana Festival" Albuquerque, NM, Old Town Gazebo: 2-5pm
    (The Handsome Family 4-5pm)
    MAY 4, CD RELEASE SHOW —
      Albuquerque, NM, Low Spirits with Pawn Drive & Next Three Miles

EVERYWHERE:
    MAY 14, WORLDWIDE RELEASE, THE HANDSOME FAMILY'S WILDERNESS
    both a CD of songs and a book of art and essays. Information about ordering soon!

UNITED KINGDOM: MAY, TOUR DATES...  with support from the lovely Snowapple for all shows...
    Thursday, 16 May    LIVERPOOL, The Kazimier     TICKETS or Box Office Tel: 0151 324 1723
    Friday 17 May, MANCHESTER, The Ruby Lounge    TICKETS or Box Office Tel: 0871 220 0260
    Saturday 18 May, GLASGOW, The Arches      TICKETS or Box Office Tel: 0141 565 1000   
    Sunday 19 May, GATESHEAD, Gateshead Old Town Hall    TICKETS  or Box Office Tel: 0191 443 4661
    Tuesday 21 May, SHEFFIELD, Greystones    TICKETS or Box Office Tel: 0114 266 5599   
    Wednesday 22 May, LEEDS, Brudenell Social Club    TICKETS or Box Office Tel: 0113 245 5570
    Friday 24 May, KIRKBYMOORSIDE, The Band Room    TICKETS    Box Office Tel:  01751 432900
    Saturday 25 May, HEBDEN BRIDGE, The Trades Club    TICKETS or Box Office Tel: 01422 845265
    Sunday 26 May, LEICESTER, The Musician    TICKETS  or Box Office Tel:  0116 251 0080   FACEBOOK PAGE
    Tuesday 28 May, NORWICH, Norwich Arts Centre    TICKETS or Box Office Tel: 01603 660352
    Wednesday 29 May, LONDON, Islington Assembly Hall      TICKETS or Box Office : 08444 77 1000
    Thursday 30 May, BRISTOL, The Fleece  TICKETS or Box Office Tel: 0117 929 9008
    Friday 31 May, OXFORD, The Bullingdon  TICKETS or Box Office Tel: 01865 244516
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Last summer we heard a rustling in our backyard. There in the leaves we saw what appeared to be a severed finger wriggling in the dirt. It was a worm-like creature, pink and segmented, but sporting a single horn at the center of its head and silver triangles along its flanks. What we had found was the larva of a Sphinx moth, a gorgeous creature with a pink dusting to its ornately-marked wings. The Sphinx moth is often seen at night here in New Mexico sipping the nectar of night-blooming plants like Jimson weed, but this moth begins life as a silvery pink caterpillar that must drop its legs and writhe its way into the soil to build its cocoon. I imagine quite a few of these worms end up simply writhing themselves to death in the hard soil of our desert yards. Nature has astonishingly cruel ways of weeding out weakness. Eagles, for example, are often born two to a nest and must immediately fight to the death upon hatching. Surprisingly, though, new research suggests that baby owls are inclined to share their food with siblings especially if their brothers and sisters are weak and hungry.
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USA, EAST COAST: with Sean Rowe supporting
June 20    Cambridge, MA at Club Passim
June 21    Fall River, MA at Narrows Center for the Arts
June 22    New Haven, CT at Cafe Nine
June 23    Hudson, NY at Club Helsinki
June 27    NYC at The Slipper Room
June 28    Philadelphia, PA at World Cafe Live
June 29    Brooklyn, NY at The Knitting Factory


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Sultan Ibrahim the Mad was kept locked in a room for most of his childhood (to protect him from being murdered by family members competing for the throne). When at last his cocoon was opened and Ibrahim was told he was the new sultan, at first he was afraid to leave his prison, but soon he began running up and down the halls of his palace screaming with joy. Ibrahim became determined to make up for his years of captivity and spent much of his time chasing his concubines and whinnying like a stallion. He had a great fetish for fur and ordered his servants to hang fur everywhere about him so that he might see and touch it wherever he went. His other great love was a concubine named Sugar Cube who was so delightfully huge and fleshy that Ibrahim ordered all his other concubines thrown into a river in weighted sacks. Rolling around his fur-lined harem with his enormous Sugar Cube surely the Sultan came closer than any man to experiencing the sensuous joys of being a caterpillar — those little creatures who roll across the world as if all it surfaces are made of fur and every inch full of delicious things to eat.
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USA, MIDDLE-WEST: July tour dates to come but confirmed so far:
    JULY 22, Mon, CHICAGO FREE SHOW: 
    Pritzker Pavillion, Millennium Park, 7:30pm

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The Sibyl were perhaps the least caterpillar-like of humans. They were female prophetesses who chose a life of celibacy and seclusion in exchange for great vision. There were many Sibyls in ancient Greece and Rome, but the most famous is The Cunean Sibyl written of by Ovid and Virgil. She was Apollo’s prophetess, letting the god literally enter her body to speak through her. Still the Sibyl was a mortal woman, young and a virgin. She wanted to keep herself pure to be a proper vessel for the immortal Apollo. Oh, but gods are lusty creatures. Psychically entering the Sibyl only made Apollo hunger to possess more of her fragile form. The Sibyl, however, refused the god’s sexual advances and Apollo, seemingly contrite, offered her a gift of her choosing by way of apology. The Sibyl picked up a fistful of sand and said she wanted to live as many years as there were grains in her hand. She thought she was asking for eternal life, but Apollo was immortal and so he actually had the time to count up the grains in the Sibyl’s fist. In the end he granted her one thousand years. He did not, however, grant her any extra youth and so the Sibyl was cursed to spend a millennium slowly aging and aging until at last she had withered down to a pile of dust stored in a jar hanging in a cave. Her voice could still be heard, but all she said in the end was, "I want to die." Finally she was granted her wish.
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SALE... Our self-released CDs, Scattered and Smothered & Covered are now both available for the low price of $10
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Even Ibrahim the Mad was eventually strangled with a silk rope by one of his eunuchs. Fear not little caterpillar! Go into your dark tomb as the silk cord tightens about your neck. This dreaming life may end, but even in its last seconds you are free to dream of being born anew. Even if no butterfly wings await you, how wonderful a gift it is to be able to dream yourself aloft, weightless in the sky. No almighty god shall ever know the beauty of such a desperate and perfect dream. The gods are cursed to look at a fist of dirt and be unable to imagine infinity. What sad creatures! How jealous they must be of our ability to spin worlds all about us using only the flimsiest of sparkling thread.
xo Rennie





OCTOBER, 2012...
Bad Haunted Houses... Handsome Family in Madrid, NM
I should have listened to the people coming out the back door saying it sucked.
One of the clowns had what I am pretty sure was a REAL BASEBALL BAT.
It was all robotic and was so lame I wanted to punch someone afterwards.
The trail of torment was good but I was taller than the werewolves.
There are two many chainsaws.
This haunted house caters to pre-teens who had water bottles of vodka.
I seen one zombie and we stood in line for three hours.
They turned off the lights and threw wet sponges at us.
They shouldn't reuse the blindfolds.
The Blood shed was dumb.
Corn Maze was a chain link fence with corn fastened to it .
We went around in circles and kept seeing the same "monster."
Im not sure why the werewolves dont have chainsaws anymore.

MADRID, New Mexico, SEE THE HANDSOME FAMILY LIVE….
Friday, October 26 at THE ENGINE HOUSE THEATER
EMAIL FOR TICKETS or call  505.438.3780
Two sets, starting at 7:30pm SHARP. Come in costume!

OTHER NEWS…
Our new record will be released May, 2013!
Tour dates to follow!
xo Rennie












  JULY, 2012...
SAD NEWS, BEAUTIFUL RECORD...
Our good friend, Eric Johnson passed away last week after battling melanoma. We are honored that Eric spent the last year of his life working with Brett in our studio on a 2-CD recording entitled, "Waiting for the Undular Bores." Eric played on many Handsome Family CDs and also played with us live at times. Recording his last work was a mammoth job, but Brett looked forward to every session with Big Sad Guy (Eric's band). You can read about the project, the band, and Brett's experiences as well as listen to songs or order CDs HERE.

*******************
Come Further, DEAR READER... find a story of  STRANGE LOVE and the subtle movements of  THE HANDSOME FAMILY…

TOUR DATES    JULY, 2012
LOS ANGELES, CA:  Wednesday, July 25, 8pm at THE HOTEL CAFE
JOSHUA TREE, CA:    Friday, July 27, 8pm at ART QUEEN
SANTA MONICA, CA:  Saturday, July 28, 8pm at  McCABE'S GUITAR SHOP

*******************
    In 1995 we moved into a long-abandoned loft-space in Chicago. There were strange remnants of the loft's history left behind in that vast, empty room: a dumb waiter, huge Styrofoam moon-rocks spray-painted silver, a DJ booth (which we turned into our bedroom), a heavy steel desk missing one drawer, a gigantic disco ball,  a Mexican mask of a woman's face with a spider spread across her nose, a classical guitar and several lawn chairs.     There was also an enormous cockroach living in the bathroom with a jet-black body that glistened like a lacquered box.
I've never seen a cockroach like that before or since. I named him Big Black (after my favorite band at the time) and we did our best to live together. Somehow I couldn't bear the thought of killing him. He was just too large, too stately, too shiny. I felt that we were the intruders in his established kingdom and I wanted to be respectful.

*******************

TOUR DATE    AUGUST, 2012
DENVER, CO:  Saturday, August 18 at THE ORIENTAL THEATER

*******************

    There were certainly other cockroaches in our new home, but they were small, brown and unremarkable. They raced in frightened circles when the light came on in the kitchen. Big Black, though, he moved like a king. He circled proudly around the toilet bowl as if to give us a chance to admire him before disappearing beneath a crack in the the molding where the baseboard met the old, chipped tiles. His body was so heavy and tangible that I swear it made a scraping noise as he moved. One or two rounds beneath the porcelain bowl and he would bid me adieu, slipping away beneath the baseboard to his throne.

*******************

TOUR DATES    SEPTEMBER, 2012

CHICAGO, IL: Friday, September 14 at  MAYNE STAGE

ST. LOUIS, MO: Saturday, September 15 at  WOOD HOUSE CONCERTS

FURTHER SOUTHEAST, STILL TBC…
9/16 - Nashville, TN
9/18 - Carrboro, NC
9/19 - Charlotte, NC
9/20 - Athens, GA
9/21 - Birmingham, AL
9/22 - Eastman, GA

*******************
    I imagined Big Black was a visiting dignitary from a universe of small, black-jeweled creatures. I imagined he was actually a beetle instead of a cockroach. I really can't be sure anymore what he was. My memory is clouded with emotion.
In any case, we did live together successfully for several months, each in our own turn rulers of the house (he at night when we retired to the DJ booth and we in the daylight hours when he retreated beneath the molding for his repose).
Every once in awhile I accidentally ousted Big Black from his daytime slumber. When I washed or swept up around the toilet too vigorously Big Black was sometimes roused into an offensive charge and I would back out of the bathroom muttering apologies until he had settled down.
    One night, alas, our time ended. I awoke in the night and climbed down from the DJ booth to get a glass of water. I was barefoot and it was dark and I was half asleep. I remember feeling like I had stepped on a gigantic eyelash, so soft and strangely delicate was the thing beneath my foot as I crushed it.
    It was not a disgusting moment. Far from it. When my heel came down upon Big Black, it was strangely beautiful and intimate, as if he and I had both been brought to the earth to share this terrible secret.
The loft was emptier without him. I often stood before the toilet, staring down at the baseboards, waiting for movement.
    One night, as I lay sleepless up in the DJ booth, I spotted a paint chip hanging from the tin ceiling. It spun slowly in the draft ever-blowing through our old, cracked windows. By the time the paint chip had spun a full circle I was smiling.
So began my love affair with Mr. Chip.

*******************


BEST TO YOU ALL,
xo Rennie and Mr. Chip







MAY, 2012
Herein, Dear Reader, find helpful musings on the inner life of turtles as well as the continually-baffling yet strangely-compelling movements of
THE HANDSOME FAMILY...

...Does it bother the turtle that it can never see its own shell? Or does the turtle simply take on faith that it is born into a world where invisible help is always at the ready? I once took a wrong turn on a deserted Michigan road in a dense, early-morning fog. When I tried to turn around by backing onto the shoulder, the rear tires of my car (actually the whole back half of the car) crashed downward and I found myself in a car hanging over some unseen abyss. Before I could even think of what to do, two workmen appeared out of the fog and proceeded to lift the back end of my car up enough that my front wheels could pull the rest of the car back onto the road. I imagine it is this kind of amazing relief that the turtle feels when it escapes the fox simply by disappearing into its shell. Alas, the poor fox has a different story to tell...
 
MAY, 2012, TOUR DATES: UNITED KINGDOM...See the Handsome Family live before end-times Mayan predictions are fulfilled! We'll be playing a bunch of new songs about hollow earth adventures, giant caterpillars, dancing octopuses and the death of Stephen Foster as well as a bunch of old favorites. Tiny Ruins will be our support band.
Wed, 16 May      LEEDS, THE BRUDENELL, TICKETS: www.jumborecords.co.uk /01132 455 570
Thur, 17, May    GLASGOW, ST ANDREWS IN THE SQUARE, TICKETS: Website or 0141 204 5151
Sat 19 May        BELFAST,  NORTHERN IRELAND, SPRING & AIRBRAKE, TICKETS: www.realmusicclub.ticketsource.co.uk or 07711 737169
Mon 21 May      BRISTOL, THE FLEECE, TICKETS: tickets or 01179299008
Wed 23 May      LIVERPOOL, LEAF, TICKETS: www.seetickets.com or 0871 220 0260
Thu 24 May      MANCHESTER: CHORLTON ARTS FESTIVAL@ST CLEMENTS, www.wegottickets.com/event/148330
Fri 25 May        OXFORD, THE BULLINGDON ARMS, www.wegottickets.com/event/148330 or 01296 748268
Sat 26 May       NORFOLK, NORWICH FESTIVAL SPIEGELTENT, TICKETS
Sun 27 May      LONDON, THE 100 CLUB:  We got Tickets or Ticket Web

...The turtles we spot in Albuquerque are western box turtles and they love to eat the garden snails that gather along the scant trails of moisture beneath the prickly pears after one of our rare, but torrential rains. How strange that one shelled creature should choose to hunt another (and with a few chomps of the turtle’s hard, beak-like mouth be done with it). Yet this is not the slow-motion battle you might imagine. The turtle is a fast-moving creature, unlike the snail, and it leaps upon the slithering gastropod as if deeply insulted that such a sleepy creature should be allowed the rare glory of having a shell. I’ve had hummingbirds give me that same look of disdain. They fly down and hover close to my face, whooshing left and right, trying to gather in the huge angles of my slow monstrosity as if horrified to find such a slothful gargantuan alive in the midst of their wild, whirring air.

TOUR DATES: SUMMER and FALL, 2012, USA
See Rennie play the world's smallest bass! See Brett sing new songs about woodpeckers, frogs and glow worms! Note how many other strange creatures are drawn out from the darkness to gather before our stage...
LOS ANGELES, CA
Wednesday, July 25, 8pm: THE HOTEL CAFE
SANTA MONICA, CA
Saturday, July 28, 8pm:  McCABE'S GUITAR SHOP

DENVER, CO
Saturday, August 18, THE ORIENTAL THEATER

CHICAGO, IL
Friday, September 14, MAYNE STAGE

FURTHER SOUTHEAST....
Dates to come in September featuring areas of the United States where iced tea is offered in both 'sweet' and 'unsweet' varieties! Please let us know if you have suggestions for where to play.
 
..The first self-portrait by a human was probably one of those prehistoric cave paintings that trace the outline of the artist’s hand. At some point in our evolution as a species, just as we all have done in our private evolution as children, we suddenly discovered we had hands. It took many more years more before anyone tried to capture the full shape of their bodies. First we spent a lot of time drawing disconnected breasts and genitals. You still see this process at work in the dressing rooms of rock clubs all over the world. There is a drawing in the Sunshine Theater here in Albuquerque that I consider sacred. In the back-stage bathroom there, someone has drawn a buxom naked woman who has an engorged and ejaculating penis for a head. This mysterious deity leaves all exiting her dark toilet altar looking as dazed as a turtle forced to look upon its own shell. Hallaleujah!
RENNIE



JUNE, 2011

Dear reader, herein find JUNE/JULY TOUR DATES FOR THE HANDSOME FAMILY as well as a discussion of the mind and manner of THE GREAT APES...

Major Penny purchased "John Gorilla" from a London department store and took it to live in his comfortable apartments. "My ambition was to teach him to be strictly clean in his habits and to have him upstairs in our house as an ordinary member of the household. At first I could not make him understand what we expected of him. He would roll on the floor and shriek. Eventually he understood and began to behave excellently. After about six weeks we took him from his cage and allowed him the freedom of the house...

THE HANDSOME FAMILY HEAD TO EASTERN USA
JUNE 21, TUES: NEW YORK CITY, 8pm at 92Y Tribeca, 200 Hudson Street, NYC,  Tickets
JUNE 22, WED: SOMERVILLE, MASS at Rosebud, 381 Summer St, Somerville, Mass.  Tickets
JUNE 23, THURS: HARTFORD, CT: at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street, Hartford, CT.  Tickets
JUNE 25, SAT: MASS MOCA, Wilco's Solid Sound Festival in The Berkshires

FOOD: John was extremely found of fresh lemon jelly. He loved roses to eat more than anything. The more beautiful they were the more he liked them, but he never would eat faded roses.
TOOLS: He knew what hammers and chisels were for, but we never encouraged him in anything to do with carpentry.
CAUTION: He was very cautious and would never run into a dark room without first turning on the light.
TABLE MANNERS: He always sat at the table and whenever a meal was ready would pull his own chair to his place. He drank a lot of water which he would alway get for himself whenever he wanted by turning on the tap and filling a tumbler. He always turned off the water when he finished drinking.
AFFECTION: He was especially found of my little niece, 3 years old. John and she used to play together for hours and if she cried John would give her mother a smack with the full weight of his hand, evidently thinking that she was the cause of the child's tears.

THE HANDSOME FAMILY IN CANADA
JULY 23, Little Fest at Little Slocan Lodge near Nelson, B.C. only four hours north of Spokane!


Peter the Chimpanzee would strike a match and light a cigarette. In perfect man-fashion he took the cigarette between his fingers, gave his keeper a light, smoked again, and blew puffs of smoke from one corner of his mouth and then the other. Then he elaborately spat into the cuspidor. Next he went to the bureau and cleaned his teeth with a toothbrush, brushed his hair on both sides, looked into the mirror and powdered his face. Finally he bit a coin and put it on the keeper's plate as a tip. He pulled off his coat, took off his cuffs and vest, removed his shirt, trousers, shoes, garters, and socks. Lighting a candle he walked to his bed, blew out the candle and went to bed. Very soon he rose, put on his trousers and a pair of roller skates and playfully pursued a young woman who ran before him. His use of roller skates was excellent.

Stories of John Gorilla and Peter Chimp are from "The Minds and Manners of Wild Animals"
by William T. Hornaday, published in 1922

xo Rennie




APRIL, 2011

On Apr 9, 2011, at 2:59 PM, The Handsome Family wrote:

Dear friends,

You don't have to join the ancient cult of Dionysus in order to enjoy a parade in his honor. Skip the mess of sacrificial bulls and the hysterical dismembering of woodland animals. Follow these simple shopping tips below for a PAN-ic filled afternoon. Why not save the evening for attending a live performance by THE HANDSOME FAMILY? See tour dates below...

1. FLOATS:
--200, gold-gilded, each 20 feet long and pulled by 180 men
--feature hundreds of purple-painted satyrs and gold-garlanded nymphs crushing grapes, dancing to pipers, re-enacting famous rape, murder and/or enchantments of history
--devote an entire float to a fifteen foot statue in a yellow spangled tunic that appears to float through the streets, occasionally rising to full height and pouring offerings of milk on crowds then reseating
--cover all floats in dense clouds of incense and precede with enormous wine-skins pouring scented wine all over the streets
--don't skimp on lyre players or torch carriers!
--follow with chests of frankincense and myrrh as well as camels carrying huge baskets of saffron and cinnamon

HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES, SUMMER 2011
NORWAY
April 27, Trondheim, Credo
April 28, Tromsø, Blå Rock
April 29, Bergen Fest, Hotel Norge Festival Bar, 7-8pm
April 30, Stavanger, Cementen
DENMARK
May 2, Aarhus, Atlas
May 3, Copenhagen, Loppen
SWEDEN
May 4, Gothenburg, Pusterviksbaren, Get there early! We're on first of three bands: Seabear, Stone River Boys and The Handsome Family
May 5, Stockholm, Mosebacke with Josh T. Pearson
BELGIUM
May 7, Gent, Kraakpand at Handelsbeurs with Saint-Marteau, Secret Sisters, Wolfendale and Melanie De Biasio
UNITED KINGDOM
May 9, Sheffield, Greystone SOLD OUT
May 10 Manchester, Band on the Wall
May 11 Gateshead, The Sage (Hall 2)
May 13, Norwich, Arts Centre
May 14, Reading, South Street Arts Centre
May 15, Exeter, The Phoenix
May 16, Bristol, The Fleece (tickets)
May 17, London, Tabernacle

EASTERN USA
The Handsome Family is proud to be part of Solid Sound Festival at Mass Moca in The Berkshires  on June 25th, 2011
More Northeast dates to come...Hartford, NYC, maybe Portland ME, Mass.

CANADA
July 23, Little Fest at Little Slocan Lodge near Nelson, B.C. only four hours north of Spokane!

2. ANIMALS
--several teams of gold-adorned oxen
--hundreds of doves and pigeons released with ribbons dangling from their feet
--troops of decorated donkeys
--elephants shod with gold-embroidered slippers
--teams of antelopes, leopards, peacocks, lions, rhinoceroses, ostriches
--at least one albino bear
--2,400 dogs
--200 bulls with gilded horns

ARTWORK AND MORE
--I still have one painting left for sale of the recent group. Thanks to all who purchased!

--You can now buy my book of SHORT STORIES, "Evil" as a download for kindle. In the USA or UK

3. FANFARE
for extra omph...
--57,000 foot soldiers
--23,000 horseback cavalry in full armor
--floating forest of gilded palm trees
--sacred crocodiles
--Turn heads with your new purple robes

--Rennie

*Shopping list is taken from a description of a 3rd century B.C. Dionysian procession that took place in the streets of Alexandria as reported by Stacy Schiff in her book, Cleopatra


JANUARY, 2011
All good wishes to you, dear friends. Herein find a sampling of sea monsters sighted while kayaking around Handsome Family Lagoon as well as our latest tour dates and two of my paintings left for sale... xo Rennie

The Aspidochelone: a giant turtle or (sometimes) whale that appears to be an attractive island until you make the mistake of going ashore and strolling up its back.
The Capricornus: dreaded fish-goat or antelope-whale. Few who have seen it can decide. Most witnesses spend the rest of their days unable to even look into a glass of water.
Charybdis: monstrous whirlpool of sucking water that always has room for one more boat.
Scylla: Charybdis's flat-mate. They share a narrow stretch of water that is best avoided even if it adds many hours on to the trip. Scylla has four eyes and six heads on long spindly necks that each want to eat their own sailor as a ship goes past; all heads equipped with three rows of razor-sharp teeth. Scylla also has twelve tentacle legs, a cat's tail and a decorative ring of wolf's heads ringing her waist. Poor Scylla was once a beautiful sea nymph but was fed poison by Circe and hence is in an understandably foul mood for all eternity.


***HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES!***

CANADA & USA, WEST COAST...
1/19 - Vancouver, BC at The Biltmore Cabaret
1/20 - Seattle, WA at The Tractor Tavern
1/21 - Portland, OR at The Doug Fir Lounge
1/22 - Eugene, OR at Sam Bond's Garage

1/25 - Berkeley, CA at Freight and Salvage
1/26 - San Francisco, CA at Café DuNord

1/28 - Los Angeles, CA at The Bootleg Theater
1/29 - Santa Monica, CA at McCabe's Guitar Shop
1/30 - Phoenix, AZ at The Rhythm Room


EUROPE...
NORWAY
Wed, 27, Apr    TRONDHEIM, CREDO
Thu, 28, Apr     TROMSØ, BLÅ ROCK
Fri, 29, Apr       BERGEN FEST, VENUE TBC
Sat, 30, Apr       STAVANGER, CEMENTEN

HOPEFULLY SOME SHOWS IN DENMARK AND SWEDEN here and THEN...

BELGIUM
Sat. 7, May     GENT, KRAAKPAND at HANDELSBEURS

UNITED KINGDOM
Mon. 9, May        SHEFFIELD, GREYSTONE
Tue. 10, May       MANCHESTER, BAND ON THE WALL
Wed, 11, May      GATESHEAD, SAGE (Hall 2)
Fri, 13, May         NORWICH, ARTS CENTRE
Sat, 14, May        READING, SOUTH STREET ARTS CENTRE
Sun, 15, May       EXETER, PHOENIX
Mon, 16, May     BRISTOL, FLEECE
Tue, 17, May       LONDON, TABERNACLE

CANADA...
July 23, Little Fest, at Little Slocan Lodge  near Nelson, B.C.


FURTHER SEA DEMONS....
The Hydra:  A serpent-like water beast with so many heads no vase-painter can capture them all (believe me, I've tried). Each head that gets chopped off grows two more. Poisonous breath and poisonous footprints when it decides to stroll up the beach to the snack bar.
Leviathan: Ye Old Testament sea-serpent who likes to hang around the Mouth of Hell. Eyes as bright as the dawn and smoke constantly pouring from nose. Fearful of nothing on this earth save a small worm called a 'kilbit' which can crawl into its gill and cause irritation.
Proteus: a shape-shifting old man of the sea who can tell your future if you catch him, but prefers to turn into salt spray and slip from your hands repeatedly.
The Rainbow Fish: red scales made of fire, blue scales made of ice, yellow scales of lightning, and green scales made of grass. Good eating!


PAINTINGS: I have TWO PAINTINGS LEFT  for sale from my latest collection, "Mysteries of Air and Water". Both of these paintings were featured on the artwork for Honey Moon.

AND...
Umibozu: a sea spirit that will drown anyone who dares to speak to it, however it will need you to provide a barrel full of water in which to drown you. Having a bottomless barrel is a great advantage here.



SEPTEMBER, 2010

Oh, the ceaseless migrations of the wildebeest and the handsome family....

The Serengeti wildebeest travels 500 to 1,000 miles every year. It migrates a great circle across the African plains following the available grass and water. Unlike the Emperor penguin who marches across the snow drifts to bring food to its newborn or the eel that travels around the world to reach mating grounds, the wildebeest moves because it must do so or die.

A wildebeest calf must stand and run within minutes of birth. It must immediately follow its mother and run fast enough to keep up with the herd. To remain behind when the herd moves forward is a death sentence. Lions and hyenas lurk in the shadows waiting for stragglers. Moving ahead, though, holds its own dangers. The rivers to be crossed can be shallow enough to hide crocodiles under their mud or deep enough that the swift currents will sweep an animal off its feet. Many wildebeests die on every leg of their journey. But the Serengeti herd is over a million strong and when they stampede across the plains nothing can stop them.

THE HANDSOME FAMILY IN NEW YORK CITY...
Saturday, September 11 at The City Winery with our pal Stan Ridgway. Doors at 5:30pm, Handsome Family on stage at 8:30pm. Buy tickets early! This is a lovely venue, but there is limited seating.
Reserve your ticket


Home again in NEW MEXICO
Sunday, September 26, FREE SHOW at Albuquerque's The Old Town Gazebo. It's the Old Town Americana Picnic with 10 local bands.Here's the Schedule
HALLOWEEN in Madrid, New Mexico
Sunday, October 31 at The Mine Shaft Tavern. A spooky night in the mountains with a costume contest and two sets by the Handsome Family. First set starts 8pm.

Scientists say that the wildebeest is governed by a 'swarm intelligence'. These burly animals move with the same choreographed grace as a flock of birds or a school of fish. They race forward in an ever-shifting pack that pushes and pulls each wildebeest in a rotating movement even as they press onward so that each animal finds itself at the edge of the herd only briefly as it runs. The lioness that is foolish enough to pursue a herd of wildebeests will find she is constantly confronted with a fresh animal to chase and she is soon exhausted.

Wildebeests make loud grunts and moans ("Gnu! Gnu! Gnu!") to constantly reaffirm their position to each other. They also exude a pungent scent from glands above their hooves so that even on a starless night they know exactly how close they are to each other. There are moments when the herd moves in such harmony that it truly is one enormous beast -- an ancient creature that has been circling the African plains for at least a million years.

New Handsome Family Merchandise...

Our newest CD, "Scattered" is a collection of odd covers, orphaned songs and lost demos.

Rennie's newest poster, "The Snake Bottle" is an alchemist's formula for forging the philosopher's stone out of a song bird, a snake and a small fire.

We again have for sale some copies of "Down in the Valley," an Irish compilation of songs from our first three cds.

Life isn't easy for the wildebeest, but there are moments when the great throng pause at mid-day after a soft rain. The plain is lush and green. No predator will dare approach until nightfall and the grass is sweet and plentiful. They spend the long sunlit hours calling back and forth to each other across the grassland...

Here we are! Here we are! Here we are!

Oh, to write a song as great as the one the wildebeest sings! I struggle on. Rennie



MAY, 2010
Why don't we trust the crow? Why doesn't the crow trust us? Why does The Handsome Family so rarely leave the house? So begins the mind's pondering....

We call a flock of crows, a 'murder' and a flock of ravens, an 'unkindness'. Crows don't think much of us either. If crows feel you are watching them too closely as they come and go from their nest they will sometimes fly to a far tree and pretend to feed fake children in a non-existent nest until they feel they have sufficiently confused you.

In medieval Europe, doctors who cared for plague victims wore waxed robes and a helmet that looked like a crow’s head. The waxed robes were thought to protect them from the deadly contagion, but the crow's mask was simply to warn others to stay away. Even Noah in his ark full of animals found his relations with the crow quickly strained. Knowing the crow to be smart, Noah released the bird to look for dry land, but when the crow didn't return. Noah, instead of rejoicing, sent out a dove to double-check.


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SUNDAY, MAY 23, ALBUQUERQUE, NM
AMP CONCERTS & THE ART OF THE SONG present
"The Handsome Family — in Concert and Conversation"
The Outpost Performance Space, Albuquerque, NM, 210 Yale SE, 7:30 pm.
Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 day of the show.
Purchase: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99378 or by phone: 1-800-838-300 6
There will be an interview for NPR's "The Art of Song" radio show and then a full performance. Brett and Rennie will be playing as a duo for this intimate, seated show.


*****************************************************************************************

Yes, t he crow family is frighteningly smart. Magpies can recognize their own reflections and will clean a red spot off their foreheads when glimpsed in a mirror. In comparison, the poor dim-witted robin will attack its own reflection until the glass is smashed.

Crows have a great ability for social learning. Most crows will choose a McDonald's fast food bag over an ordinary brown bag without hesitation. Crows have also learned to place walnuts underneath car tires and then wait patiently for the car to drive away. They use wood splinters to pull insects out of crevices and have even been seen using cups to carry water back to their nests.


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HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES!

JUNE, USA:
June 11--THE CEDAR CULTURAL CENTER, MINNEAPOLIS, MN 416 Cedar Ave S, MPLS, MN, 612-338-2674, www.thecedar.org
June 12-- THE HIGH NOON SALOON, MADISON, WI
701 E. Washington Ave, 608-268-1122, www.high-noon.com
June 13- THE OLD TOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK MUSIC, CHICAGO
4544 North Lincoln Avenue, 773-728-6000, www.oldtownschool.org

June 15, THE MERCURY LOUNGE, NYC
217 E. Houston St., 212-260-4700, www.mercuryloungenyc.com

June 16, THE WORLD CAFÉ LIVE, PHILADELPHIA
3025 Walnut St, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com

June 18, THE IOTA, ARLINGTON, VA
2832 Wilson Blvd., VA, 703-522-8340, www.iotaclubandcafe.com

June 19, CARRBORO ARTS CENTER, NC
300 East Main St, 919-929-2787, www.artscenterlive.org

June 20, SNUG HARBOR, CHARLOTTE, NC
1228 Gordon Street, 704-333-9799, www.snugharbor.com



JULY
UK & IRELAND:

Rennie and Brett will be performing these european shows as a duo for a very intimate sound featuring guitar and banjo.
UNITED KINGDOM
JULY 21, Manchester, 7pm, live session at BBC Manchester for 6 Music's Marc Riley

JULY 23 and 24, Friday and Saturday
Two shows at The beautiful GATESHEAD SAGE:
23rd---"Murder, Misery, and Then Goodnight-- guests include Kristin Hersh, The Handsome Family, Tim Eriksen, Eliza Carthy, Howe Gelb

24th-- The Jumpin' Hot Stage, an outdoor afternoon full set by The Handsome Family at the performance square

More info: http://www.thesagegateshead.org/whats_on/index.aspx

JULY 25, Sunday, TROWBRIDGE VILLAGE PUMP FESTIVAL
http://www.trowbridgefestival.co.uk/

J ULY 27, Tuesday, BRISTOL, THEKLA
http://www.theklabristol.co.uk/

JULY 28, Wednesday, LEEDS, THE HYDE PARK PICTURE HOUSE
http://www.jumborecords.co.uk/tickets.asp?sort=&event_id=10115
We'll be playing a full performance preceded by the film, "Microcosmos" which is Rennie's favorite movie about insects---from snails kissing to beetles battling, it's an unforgettably beautiful film.

JULY 29, Thursday, STIRLING, THE TOLBOOTH
http://www.stirling.gov.uk/tolbooth/

I RELAND
Confirmed dates still to come, but hopefully
Skibbereen, Cork and more.



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Crows have a vocabulary that includes at least eighty documented words as well as regional dialects. Crows are sentimental and ritualistic. They will gather at the site where a garbage dump once stood long after the dump has gone away. Has it become a sacred spot for them?


Crows will also gather by the hundreds to witness the death of a single crow. They simply wait quietly for the death and then afterwards all fly away at once. Crows not only gather for such funerals, but also for executions. Crows fill all the trees in a clearing and then wait. Suddenly all is quiet as one crow steps forward and kills another.



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We have a new CD Release!
"Scattered: A Further Collection of Lost Demos, Orphaned Songs and Odd Covers".
In the spirit of "Smothered and Covered" we're releasing another cd full of bits and bobs. We should have copies to sell by June 10 and will have some on our upcoming tour dates. For the first year it will only be available on our website and at our shows. You can pre-order a copy here ( http://www.handsomefamily.com/Nmerch.html#anchor864587 ) and we'll send one out to you when we get our first shipment pressed or you can buy one from us at a live show.


Here's what's on the cd....

“The Lost Soul ” originally recorded for Bloodshot Records’ 2005 compilation, For a Decade of Sin.
When it Rains,” was supposed to be on Twilight but somehow fell by the wayside.
“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” by Dylan, recorded for Uncut's, Highway 61 Revisited Revisited.
“Snowball” originally released on Bloodshot’'s 2002 children’'s record, The Bottle Let Me Down.
“Ain’t No Grave” written by Brother Claude Ely.
“Little Buddy, one of our earliest attempts at songwriting (1993).
“Eleanor Rigby bluegrass version with the Rivet Gang.
“A Plague of Humans,” written for David Coulter’s “Plague Songs ” that took place at the Barbican in 2007.
“Famous Blue Raincoat” Leonard Cohen's classic.
Drinking Beer on the Roof, an alternate to the “Red Leaf Forest. We realized later we liked these lyrics better.
“Telephones and Telescopes” originally released as a 7”" single by Speed Kills in 1992.
“The Lost Highway” most-famously recorded by Hank Williams. Our version's from 2002.
“Honcho” is an instrumental recorded by Brett on 4-track in 1991.
“The Blizzard” by Harlan Howard, most-famously recorded by Jim Reeves.
What does the Deep Sea Say?” A traditional we first heard sung by The Blue Sky Boys.
“Tranquilized” is Brett’'s sad song about life post mental hospital. 1996.
June Bugs” (alternate take) this version has a certain magic we lost in the final mix released on Honey Moon.
One Way Up” (4-track demo) is an early (1990) 4-track version of a song later released on Odessa .




“Claire Said” (rehearsal tape) is an early live recording made in our Chicago apartment around 1992.


*****************************************************************************************

No one knows why, but crows take great pleasure in lying on top of ant hills and rubbing the ants' formic acid on their wings. Does the smell of formic acid repel other insects or, does the acid somehow intoxicate the birds?

A traditional Tibetan funeral involved cutting a loved one into pieces and feeding the body parts to crows. The crows feed and then fly up into the air and thus help the dead rise away from this world.

Crows are known to collect shiny objects and objects that are colored white: golf balls, white pebbles, clamshells. A great yogi was asked once what the world looked like to the enlightened and he replied, "It looks like the entire world is covered with white, glistening snow."

Hope your world shines brightly, Rennie






APRIL, 2010

Take a moment to consider the termite and to ponder the movements of The Handsome Family...

Termite nests are nothing short of works of art. Their soaring spires are constructed with awe-inspiring symmetries. Why these insects build such gorgeous homes is a mystery, especially since termites are completely blind. It's amazing but true: termite nests can rise as high as twenty feet tall. These creatures work relentlessly. Each one carries a single grain of earth coated in saliva. They carefully glue their morsel in place then head down to find another. Considering the small size of termites, such a building is the equivalent of an 180-story skyscraper built by hand, brick by brick— yet termites only live about two years.

*******************************

SATURDAY, APRIL 10, THE HANDSOME FAMILY AT LOW SPIRITS
2823 2nd Street NW, ABQ, NM, 505-344-9555
With special guests Fast Heart Mart
Doors 7pm, Show starts 9pm sharp.
For tickets and more info: www.lowspiritslive.com

*******************************

The inside of a termite's nest is a fancy apartment building. They have everything: larva rooms, fungus production rooms, rooms for hot and cold weather. They even have ventilation systems and emergency exits. The enormous queen has her own bedroom, a dark bower where she grows bigger and bigger. She gives birth to thousands of eggs. She gives birth to her entire world.

*******************************

SUNDAY, MAY 23, THE HANDSOME FAMILY AT THE OUTPOST PERFORMANCE SPACE
210 Yale SE,  505-268-0044
AMP Concerts and NPR's Art of the Song present...
The Handsome Family in Concert and in Conversation, 7:30pm
featuring a live interview for 'Art of the Song' followed by a performance
For more info. visit www.ampconcerts.org

*******************************

Termites seem to have a natural hatred for us. Not only do they attack our houses, but some people also accuse them of eating away the dams around New Orleans right before Katrina hit.  Are termites waging a war against us? Will they win?

*******************************

USA TOUR DATES, JUNE 2010
June 11, THE CEDAR CULTURAL CENTER, MINNEAPOLIS
416 Cedar Ave S, MPLS, MN, 612-338-2674, www.thecedar.org

June 12, TBC

June 13, THE OLD TOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK MUSIC, CHICAGO
4544 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL, 773-728-6000, www.oldtownschool.org

June 15, THE MERCURY LOUNGE, NYC
217 East Houston Street, 212-260-4700, www.mercuryloungenyc.com

June 16, THE WORLD CAFÉ LIVE, PHILADELPHIA
3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com

June 17, TBC

June 18, THE IOTA, ARLINGTON, VA
2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA, 703-522-8340, www.iotaclubandcafe.com

June 19, CARRBORO ARTS CENTER, NC
300 East Main Street, Carrboro, NC, 919-929-2787, www.artscenterlive.org

June 20, SNUG HARBOR, CHARLOTTE, NC
1228 Gordon Street, Charlotte, NC, 704-333-9799
www.snugharbor.com

*******************************

Although they’re blind, termites navigate the intricate corridors of their world without hesitation. Termites can communicate by banging their heads on the floor of their tunnels. They create vibrations that other termites can both feel and hear. But termites have another, more mysterious way of communicating that is conducted through their queen. Some scientists call it a ‘group soul’.

*******************************


EUROPE, JULY-AUGUST, 2010
We have a bunch of dates we're working on for Europe. Only one confirmed so far:

July 25-- TROWBRIDGE VILLAGE PUMP FESTIVAL, Somerset.
www.trowbridgefestival.co.uk

*******************************

Divide a termite’s nest in two in the beginnings stages of its construction. Use a heavy plate of metal so that neither side can hear or feel or smell the presence of the other. When the nest is finished on both sides if you pull out the metal plate you will find that the two disconnected halves of the nest match each other exactly. All the passageways connect perfectly. All rooms on one side are mirrored to the ones on the other. If you kill the queen, however;  all activity immediately stops. Termites that a moment before were busily working now move about aimlessly. Within minutes even the termites at the far edges of the nest are left in total confusion. Even termites isolated by the metal plate are left bewildered.

*******************************

"SCATTERED"
We will soon have a new, self-released CD entitled, "Scattered." In the tradition of "Smothered and Covered" it will be a gathering together of various loose tracks, rarities, demos, and covers we've done over the years. We'll be selling it at our shows in June and July/August as well as on our website (www.handsomefamily.com). We'll announce it when it's on sale.

*******************************

Creationists often cite the inexplicable perfection of termite nests as proof that an intelligent hand was behind their existence. Scientists think termites build such intricate nests because they’re an aggressive, warring creature and their nests are often under attack. If termite nests are proof of god’s existence then god must be a huge queen pouring eggs forth into the universe. She must guide our every move. If she stops, even for a moment, what will happen to us? What will happen to the world?

*******************************
We hope your spring is full of flowers and honey bees. xo Rennie



JANUARY, 2010
Herein friends, find Handsome Family news as well as startling facts about sharks...

SHARK SMELL: A shark's sense of smell is so great it can smell just one part per million of blood in seawater. I imagine blood smells sweet to them like chocolate. There was a chocolate factory near where I used to live in Chicago. I  also lived near a dog food factory. Depending on how the wind was blowing I smelled chocolate or dog food. I never learned to like the smell of dog food, but it seems to me that it's my nose and not the dog food that's the problem. I've watched my cats take long, slow inhalations of each others' hind ends and they act like they're smelling the finest of flowers or reading a beautiful poem.

AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES!
Sunday 10th January - Rosemount Hotel, Perth
Tickets from www.moshtix.com.au, 1300 GET TIX (438 849) and www.heatseeker.com.au Stores: Star Perth, Mills Records Fremantle, and Planet Video Mt Lawley
Wednesday 13th January - Prince Bandroom, Melbourne
Tickets from Polyester (City and Fitzroy), Greville, Missing Link, POW public bar, ph: 9536-1168
& www.princebandroom.com.au, Presented by RRR
Thursday 14th + Friday 15th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney Festival
SOLD OUT. EXCEPT A FEW TICKETS FOR THESE SHOWS WILL GO ON SALE THE DAY OF THE SHOWS AT TIX FOR NIX
January 20 - The Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide.
Tickets available at the Grace Emily.

SHARK SIGHT: Shark eyes are scary. Their stare seems cold and dead, utterly menacing and alien and, at the same time, familiar— an ancient, half-remembered demon from our long-ago days as creatures of the sea. Surprisingly, many sharks attack with their eyes closed. The Great White shark rolls its eyes back in its head when attacking.

NEW ZEALAND TOUR DATES!
27th January - Auckland - Monte Cristo Room
28th January - Wellington - San Francisco Bath House
29th January - Dunedin - Chicks Hotel
30th January - Christchurch - Sound Day Festival
31st January - Masterton - Aratoi (www.aratoi.co.nz)
Tickets to all the shows (except Christchurch*) will be available from
www.undertheradar.co.nz

SHARK SIXTH SENSE: Sharks have an amazing ability to detect electromagnetice fields. They can detect the electric flashes emitted by the tiniest muscle flex of the tiniest flounder buried under the sand fifty feet below. They can also navigate by following magnetic fields across the sea. Imagine feeling all the twitches of all the muscles of all living things spread out around you in a beautiful web of electric lines. Every moment of a shark's life must be full of great revelation— a Buddhist state of connection to the world.

MORE HF TOUR DATES IN THE WORKS...
May, 2010, east coast, USA
June, 2010, west coast, USA
July, 2010, UK and other parts of Europe

SHARK REPRODUCTION: Female sharks have been known to reproduce without having sex with a male. Nobody knows how they do it. Do they simply envision their creation and then form it in flesh? Do the ley lines of our planet pull new life spontaneously from their center?

OCTOPUS SHIRT: We're discontinuing our octopus shirt to make room for a new design. We have some XL and Large left, but only ONE 2XL left to sell, Paypal me $20 and it's yours. You probably should email first to find out if I still have the shirt here.

SHARK SLEEP: It is thought that sharks sleep one cerebral hemisphere at a time. They are never completely asleep. Perhaps they are always dreaming a little bit as well. Even as they tear a fish apart they see a dream world of blood opening before them like a million swirling flowers.

SCATTERED: We're working on another CD compilation of odd songs and demos which will be sold at our upcoming tour dates (except AUS/NZ, but we'll have other bits and bobs to sell at those shows).

SHARK FIN SOUP: Please don't eat shark fin soup. It is made by cutting off a shark's fin and then throwing the rest of the body into the water. They sell vegetarian shark fin soup at my local asian grocery store, but I haven't tried it. The name is off-putting to me, but I know I shouldn't let that stop me. When I finally tried Thai sour fruit soup it turned out to be delicious. So did fermented tofu which spreads like the softest butter. Maybe people who eat shark fin soup are like the hungry ghosts of Buddhist mythology, forever trying to fill up their emptiness with the soul of something grand and strong. You can't just eat a shark to be a shark. Far better to spend time trying to imagine all living creatures emitting their tiny sparks as they move. Try and feel the grand symphony of flashes around us— the secret starry night that only sharks can see.

RIP VIC CHESTNUTT: No words to express how much we'll miss his presence in the world.

--Rennie









SEPTEMBER, 2009
Greetings fellow travelers on this ship spinning around the sun. Herein find secrets of the jellyfish and the latest from ye olde Handsome Family.

Jellyfish have been living on Earth for millions of years—long before humans or even dinosaurs made their first appearance. The jellyfish has four stomachs and four clusters of eyes on each side of its umbrella-like body. Believe it or not, jellyfish also have four distinct brains. No one understands exactly how this works. Perhaps they are like Chang and Eng, the famous conjoined twins, always tugging each other in different directions. One night they spent with Chang’s wife while Eng lay next to the couple pretending to sleep. The next night they went to Eng’s house and Chang would stare into his pillow whilst Eng and his wife made love. I prefer, however, to imagine that having four brains feels like waking from a terrible dream and feeling the pressure of an invisible hand clasping your own in the dark.

UPCOMING TOUR DATES!
 
 EUROPE...
 ***The United Kingdom***
 Sun, 27 Sept, NORWICH ARTS CENTRE with Holly Throsby
 8pm, £12 adv. /£13 door (tickets: 01603 660 352 or www.norwichartscentre.co.uk)  
 
 Mon, 28 Sept, BUSH HALL, LONDON with Holly Throsby
 7.30 pm, £12.50 Adv/ £15.00 Door (tickets: 0844 477 1000 or www.bushhallmusic.co.uk)
 
 Tue, 29 Sept, TAYLOR JOHNS HOUSE, COVENTRY
 £10 adv £15 door (tickets: www.tinangeltickets.co.uk or www.wegottickets.co.uk)
 
 ***Holland and Belgium***
 Thursday, 1 Oct, HOLLAND, DEN HAGUE,  Paard van Troje
 7:30pm (tickets: www.paard.nl)
 
 Friday, 2 Oct, BELGIUM,  EEKLO, N9 (www.n9.be)
 
 Saturday, 3 Oct, HOLLAND, GRONINGEN
 Take Root Festival (tickets: www.ticketservice.nl  or www.de-oosterpoort.nl or www.takeroot.nl) 
 
 ***Denmark and Sweden***
 Sunday, 4 Oct, DENMARK, ARHUS VOX HALL, 9pm  
 TICKETS/INFO: 0045 70 26 32 67  or www.voxhall.dk> 
      
 Wednesday, 7 Oct, STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN, KAGELBANAN/SODRA TEATERN    
 www.sodrateatern.com, 7.30pm,     145 sek
 
 Thursday, 8 Oct, SWEDEN, GOTHENBURG, PUSTERVIKSBAREN   
 www.ticnet.s or www.pustervik.goteborg.se, 9pm, 125 sek
 
 Friday, 9 Oct, SWEDEN, MALMO, KB     
 www.ticnet.se  or www.kulturbolaget.se, 8pm, 145 sek
 
 Saturday, 10 Oct DENMARK, COPENHAGEN, LOPPEN, 9pm
 TICKETS/INFO: www.billetlugen.dk or  www.loppen.dk
  
 ***Norway***
 Tuesday, 13 Oct, STAVANGER, CEMENTEN, 10pm
 www.linticket / www.cementen.no  or www.checkpoint.no
 
 Wednesday, 14 Oct, BERGEN, MADAM FELLE
 www.billetservice.no or www.madamfelle.no
 
 Thursday, 15 Oct, TRONDHEIM, RESTAURANT CREDO (just Brett and Rennie as a duo)
 credo@restaurantcredo.no or www.restaurantcredo.no, 9PM, NOK 150
 
 Friday, 16 Oct, TROMSO, BLA ROCK CAFE (Brett and Rennie as a duo)
 www.Billettluka.no  or www.blarock.no, NOK 220
 
 Saturday, 17 Oct, OSLO, BLAA
 www.billettservice.no  or www.blaaoslo.no 
 
 ***Spain***
 A group tour with John Doe & The Sadies plus Magnolia Electric Company.
 Tickets: www.ticketmaster.es
 
 Tuesday, 20 Oct, CADIZ, AULARIO DE LA BOMBA      
 
 Wednesday, 21 Oct, MADRID, SALA HEINEKEN
 
 Thursday, 22 Oct, ALICANTE, MINT CLUB
 
 Friday, 23 Oct, BARCELONA, APOLO
 
 Saturday, 24 Oct, ZARAGOZA, LA CASE DEL LOCO (sin Magnolia Electric co)       
 
 Sunday, 25 Oct, MAJORCA, TEATRE LLOSETA
 
 Did you know there’s a kind of jellyfish that is virtually immortal? While most life forms begin to die after they reproduce, the Turritopsis Nutricula jellyfish is able to revert back to its juvenile form after mating. These jellyfish can perform this miraculous feat indefinitely. In other words, unless they fall prey to some outside attack... they never die. There may be jellyfish swimming the ocean right now that have been alive for millions of years and will be here for millions more.
 
 
 MORE UPCOMING TOUR DATES!
 
 ***USA***
 November 14-18, 2009
 MYSTERY TRAIN!!
 LIVE MUSIC, LEGENDARY TRAINS AND THE GREAT SOUTHWEST!
 Los Angeles - Albuquerque - Petrified Forest - Grand Canyon - Los Angeles
 The Handsome Family, Jill Sobule and the Stan Ridgway Trio announce The Mystery Train... an unforgettable four days through the wide open spaces of the American Southwest. Travel in overnight luxury in our own private railroad cars from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, across the Mojave Desert, tracing the lines of Route 66, and then by private motorcoach to the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon, before reboarding our train for the trip home. Each night there will be plenty of music: informal jams on board and land-based shows with our host musicians. An open mic or two; some world-class meals and memories to last a lifetime! There's only room for fifty patrons on board... please join us!
 
 Full details at: http://www.rootsontherails.com/rails/mysterytrain.htm
 Call Sarah at Roots on the Rails at 866-484-3669 with questions, or email trains@sover.net.
 
 ***Australia and New Zealand***
 JANUARY, 2010 a tour is in the works. Dates coming soon, but definitely the Sydney Festival January 14 and 15 in the Spiegeltent.

Nomura’s jellyfish grows to be six feet long (not including its tentacles which often stretch twice that length). In the northern Pacific there lives a jellyfish that can grow over 120 feet long. Shackleton’s men, on their doomed polar expedition, wrote of seeing a jellyfish pulsing under the ice floes that stretched over 10 miles in length. These doomed explorers also wrote of encountering a pure white fox that was able not only to hear, but to control their thoughts. This pale fox caused many a good man to run off into the snow wearing naught but his nightshirt.
 
 OTHER NEWS...
 POSTERS: We have a new poster for sale in a very limited quantity. It's a colored pencil drawing color-copied and signed by the artist, Ben Wachter. There's also one last Schuba's poster left and a few copies of Rennie’s squirrel poster. You can see them all here... http://www.handsomefamily.com/Nmerch.html#POSTERS
 
 PAINTINGS: When we get back home in November I'll be putting five or six paintings up for sale. Email me (handsomefamily@mindspring.com) if you'd like to be one of the first notified (and you haven’t already emailed me about being interested in my paintings).
 
 Bluebottle jellyfish are a beautiful shimmering blue, but their painful stings may dig deep into your flesh and can lead to heart failure. The venom of the Box jellyfish is so powerful that one sting has enough poison to kill 60 people in under three minutes.

Global warming has caused jellyfish populations to skyrocket. There are places near coastal cities called “dead zones” where the coral reefs have been killed by heavy pollution. Here the last dying fish have no place to hide. They are hunted by huge swarms of jellyfish until the waters are empty of life. Still, this great destroyer is also quietly saving the world. As their great numbers gently stir the water, jellyfish help cool the world’s seas. Like the great god Shiva banging his drum to both create and destroy the universe, so doth the jellyfish drift the seas— at once killing and saving us all.
 
 See you on the waves... Rennie
 
 





NOVEMBER, 2008

HOLLOW EARTH!
Driftwood found on the shores of the Arctic Ocean provides further proof of the ‘Hollow Earth’ theory. Our expedition found a large coniferous tree on a beach just above the extreme high-water mark. It was about thirty feet long and had been carried recently to this point (indeed a cheery campfire was soon made from its branches) yet no timber of such dimensions grows within hundreds of miles of where we stood!
 
Where did the tree come from? The only logical answer is that it came from inside the Earth! While the mysterious tree burned readily, members of our party noted flashes of green flame within its fire and several were made sick by canned beans reheated upon its embers. Some weeks later, as we traversed the coastline, we made a further startling discovery. A large tree, probably pine or fir, was found almost completely buried in the ground over half mile from the water. Was the tree thrown there by some huge wind storm or was it pushed up by volcanic eruption from a forest growing far below the surface of our world?
 
 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 THE HANDSOME FAMILY LEAVES HOUSE!
 -- USA, November 25: Albuquerque NM, The Sunshine Theater. We open for Calexico. Show starts at 8pm!
 
 -- United Kingdom, November 29, Twisted Folk Festival, The Arts Depot - North Finchley - London - N12
    Tickets: £15 / £17, Box Office: 0208 369 5454 (http://www.artsdepot.co.uk/)
 
 --United Kingdom, November 30, The Half Moon - Herne Hill -  London SE24
   Tickets: £12, Box Office - 020 7274 2733 (http://www.halfmoonpub.co.uk)
 
 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
ON THE SHORES OF LAKE BIEDERBICK... I, myself, found an enormous pair of reindeer antlers, buried up to the highest tines. Further away from the shore I found traces of a campsite littered with strange spearheads made of an unidentifiable bone. The mysterious spearheads were carved with intricate whirls, the likes of which none among my retinue had ever seen and all remarked that extended examination of such patterns left the eyes unstable and the mind racing with fear. We also found the remains of tanned skins that even Tremont, our naturalist, was at a complete loss to identify. The animals appeared to have three legs on one side and four on the other. A petroglyph later spotted on a nearby cliffside by Tremont depicted a sky containing two suns. Next morning Tremont was found delirious and fevered, wandering in circles at the edge of the campsite.
 
 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 NEW RELEASES...
 --We have a NEW EP available for download: "In the Forest of Missing Airplanes"
 Features three songs: The Blizzard, Knoxville Girl, and All the Time in Airports

 http://www.amazon.com/Forest-Missing-Airplanes/dp/B001KQ5GCA/ref=sr_f3_1ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1226439902&sr=103-1
 
 --We have a FREE CHRISTMAS DOWNLOAD for you, too!
 Our "Christmas" song “So Much Wine” is available for free at www.loosemusic.com from December 1st, 2008 for two weeks.
 
 --Don’t forget our new 7" VINYL RECORD... One side has "The Blizzard" and the other has "Drunk by Noon", both sides have art by Rennie.
 
http://www.handsomefamily.com/Nmerch.html

 
 --And, of course, our NEW CD, “HONEY MOON” is to be released April, 2009 with lots of tour dates to follow
 
 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
WHAT IS THE INTERIOR OF THE EARTH LIKE?  
From analysis it seems that sea monsters and possibly even sea serpents will certainly be found living below the Earth’s surface as well as enormous spiders hording glittering gems of all kinds within their webbed caverns. There, too, may be found vast territories of arable land suitable for farming.
 
The opening into the interior of the Earth found at the south of Antarctic is fifteen hundred miles in diameter while the opening at the north Arctic is only one thousand miles in diameter. Subterranean inhabitants must experience a drastically longer summer near the south pole. Such pale and blind creatures would surely find such extended illumination offensive and thus it is here, during the long summer months, that safe entry into the Earth may be attempted.
 
Special care must be taken to guard against accidents on any such expedition. A ship should be well supplied with auxiliary boats and powerful search lights as well as a supply of radium lamps. Guarded and brightly-lit stations should be established every few miles and the path well-marked with phosphorus paint. A supply of colored glass beads and small hand mirrors should be brought along to trade with inhabitants (although every effort must be made to avoid shining light directly into their sensitive eyes). The utmost caution should be taken as the further reaches of the interior are traversed. The differing gravitational pull found within the planet may cause permanent muscular and skeletal damage on those not suitably attired. Caution must also be taken to avoid both “Deep Cavern Arrhythmia” and “Subterranean Homicidal Rage” (although isolation in darkness with ringing bells sounding at intervals is often an effective, if not immediate, cure for both such common maladies)...
Adapted freely from "Phantom of the Poles" written by William Reed, 1906. Rare first edition manuscript found in overturned chifferobe in Perryton, Texas.
 
 Until we meet again deep below the surface, my fellow explorers, step lightly in dark corridors...
 Rennie
   





OCTOBER, 2008

A big hello from the sunny side of the Sandia Mountains...
 
 Herein find DOUSING WANDS, DIAMOND PENDULUMS and
 NEWS OF THE HANDSOME FAMILY (New CD! London dates! More!)
 
 
 STICK WIGGLING! Are you a Water Witch? Do you have the gift of stick wiggling? It’s simple to find out. Leave your hat out in a field overnight. In the morning if you find it full of snakes you have what it takes to become a douser. Cut yourself a green fork of peach tree or witch hazel. Take one prong firmly in each hand. Walk slowly back and forth with the fork held out in front of you, parallel to the ground. When you cross an underground stream, forgotten well, or pocket of primordial ice the stick will twist violently downward. Commence digging!
 
NOVEMBER, LONDON, UK: TWO DATES
November 29
Arts Depot - North Finchley - London - N12
Tickets: £15 / £17
Box Office: 0208 369 5454
http://www.artsdepot.co.uk/

November 30
The Half Moon - Herne Hill -  London SE24
Tickets: £12
Box Office - 020 7274 2733
http://www.halfmoonpub.co.uk


 
 THE POWER OF THE PENDULUM! Can’t find peach trees or witch hazel in your local enchanted forest? Make a pendulum! T.C. Lethbridge found that by hanging a weight on the end of a string many things could be found below-ground just by walking paces about his garden and observing the pendulum’s motion. Different string lengths find different things. Shorter lengths find metals: brass, copper, lead. Slightly longer may uncover truffles, sweet potatoes, rare purple carrots. At forty inches Lethbridge’s pendulum located death. He further reported that strings over forty inches in length began to pick up the shapes of unseen dimensions.
 
 NOVEMBER 11: SEVEN-INCH VINYL RECORD RELEASED
 We’re releasing our first 7” with Carrot Top Records. It’ll have “Drunk by Noon” on one side. This is a song from our second CD that has been covered by Sally Timms and several others as well as listed as one of Jim Halpert’s (a character from the US TV show, “The Office”) favorite songs. Thanks Jim for all those downloads! The other side of the 7” is our recording of “The Blizzard” (a song made famous by Countrypolitan crooner Jim Reeves). The sleeve features full-color art by Rennie on both sides. We should have this collector’s item for sale on our website by early December.
 
 GOLD DOODLEBUG! To turn your water dousing stick into a gold hunter simply hang a gold ring from the end of the stick. To find buried treasure split the end of the stick and insert coins of various metals. Try swinging a pendulum over a map of your hometown to find out who’s thinking about you and who’s thinking about lighting fires.
 
 APRIL 15, 2009 NEW CD RELEASED!
 We are almost finished with our 8th CD of new songs. It’s called "Honey Moon," and features songs that take place under bowed branches and deep within winding corn mazes. Lovers kiss in dripping wet caves and call to each other from trembling mountain peaks. They sigh on windy drawbridges and weep silver puddles in the street. It’s a record of love songs, written to celebrate our 20th year of marriage.
 COMING SOON AS WELL: New shirts and posters to commemorate the upcoming record.
 
 DIAMOND PENDULUMS! On the internet I find diamond pendulums for sale (only $47!) that supposedly can connect you to ‘Universal Intelligence”. These pendulums have been “reviewed by the leading trade journal as ‘THE MOST RESPONSIVE PENDULUM’”. I am having difficulty locating said ‘leading trade journal’, but a subscription is certainly in order. I shall retire to my underground, copper-lined laboratory for further investigation into aformentioned periodical.
 
 May golden leaves fill your Autumn with light....Rennie  








FEBRUARY, 2008

Hello again, far-flung friends...
 
The sparrows are singing in Albuquerque and the contrails linger in turquoise blue sky. We have just returned from a Caribbean cruise with The Barenaked Ladies and the curious reader may find my tour diary below (to be published with revealing photos in Word Magazine, UK). Other doings about our enchanted fortress...
 
 UPCOMING SHOWS!
 ALBUQUERQUE, SATURDAY FEBRUARY 23...
 The Launchpad with Trilobite and The Grave of Nobody's Darling
 $8, 9:45pm.
 
UK/EUROPE, JUNE...We're working on some dates in Europe.
 Only one confirmed so far:
 Sun    15    Jun    UK     LEICESTER    THE BIG SESSION
 
 CANADA, JULY-24-27...Calgary Folk Festival.
 
DOG FOOD CAN COLLECTION!
My obsessive hoarding of pet food from around the globe has finally been given the respect it has long deserved. Those of you in Louisville can see it on display (as well as one of my paintings) at The Cressman Gallery:
http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080113/SCENE05/801130327/1047
 
 HANDSOME FAMILY SONGBOOK!
 Our book of songs (including melodies, chords, tabs, lyrics) will be back from the printer next month. I will holler when it is up for sale on the website.
 For the serious collector---we're also working on a limited edition of the songbook done using traditional letter-press printing and including original artwork, handmade paper and binding all by Heidi Atwood. Heidi is also going to print up a limited edition of sheet music for us. Should be finished by year’s end.
 
 AMPS!
 Our pal Greg Hansen has more great homemade amps for sale on our website:
 http://www.handsomefamily.com/gregspage.html


 
That’s all for now, friends. Enjoy the high seas adventure below...xo Rennie
 
 
 TOUR DIARY... THE HANDSOME FAMILY & BARENAKED LADIES SEA CRUISE
 by Rennie Sparks
 
 My husband and I have a band called The Handsome Family. Over the years we've played our share of far-flung venues: a lesbian death metal bar in Oslo, the Sydney Opera House, a Belgian festival where everyone dressed in medieval garb (tights, pointed slippers, daggers), a funeral full of sobbing people... But still even we were surprised to be invited to play Ships And Dip III: The Barenaked Ladies Cruise.
 
 Our songs are about haunted basements and stray dogs, shipwrecks and cannibalism. We're not exactly a band from Margaritaville. We're not even the kind of people who dream of going on a cruise. Sometimes on a day off in Paris we'll do our laundry and I have spent a weekend in Rome with the black-out curtains pulled across my hotel window. But there were a bunch of other acts already scheduled to play the cruise, all hand-picked by The Barenaked Ladies - Sarah Harmer, Guster, Jason Plumb, Gaellic Storm, Oakhurst, Carbon Leaf to name a few -  and we'd only have to play three shows during the five-day cruise. January is cold where we live in Albuquerque and so, after a few weeks mulling it over, we packed our sunscreen and flew to Miami. Two planes, three taxis and a shuttle bus later we boarded the Carnival Victory.
 
 DAY ONE: The ship is enormous. Eleven stories of maze-like corridors and almost 2,000 BNL fans running around in Hawaiian shirts and funny hats. There are people packed into the glass elevators and lining up at the waterslide and the buffet. There are bars decorated with sea horses and mermaids, bars that look like libraries, bars with Greek columns, bars between the slot machines, bars by the buffet and the mini golf and the health spa... Where there are no bars there are men in blue shorts circling with trays of tropical drinks and screaming "refreshments!"
 
 Everyone is roaring drunk and whooping wildly as BNL come out on the Lido Deck and play a welcome-aboard set. I order the first of many martinis served in a plastic cup. Everything is plastic on the ship from the chandeliers to the mermaids entwined between the dining-room tables. The line for the buffet stretches half the length of the ship and there are long lines at the sushi cart, the pizza grill, the oriental wok station and the soft-serve ice cream machine. I order another drink.
 
 The ship's horn blasts as we pull from port and I stumble from bar to bar, up the spiral staircase and round the green-carpeted corridors. We bump into Kevin from BNL, as the ship lurches to and fro. I spot Tyler (their drummer) running towards an elevator and Ed (their guitarist) pushing through a crowd near the gelato bar. These guys induce head-turning and nervous giggles wherever they go on-board and so it seems like they're always moving (else risk being cornered by crowds of gregarious drunks). The only place I will see them together is onstage or on the TV in my stateroom. There's a 24 hour BNL TV channel broadcasted aboard ship, endlessly looping BNL videos, interviews, and live performances. Other channels on TV include, inexplicably, the local news from Denver as well as a video message from the Captain asking us to wash our hands thoroughly and use Kleenex to open doors in public areas.
 
 DAY TWO: This morning is the naked photo on the Lido deck. The Barenaked Ladies live up to their name and pose naked with their fans. Only those who sign a waiver and get equally unclothed can participate (and have the option later to buy the photo for $29.95). Hundreds of eager people stream out into the sunshine wearing only bathrobes. I briefly consider getting naked in the interest of this story, but I am uncomfortable enough just being out in the sunlight on a deck chair surrounded by beautiful blue water. I am pushed back with the other wanna-be gawkers so that we can not view the proceedings.
 
 Alas, this is just the first of many activities that I don't take part in.
 I don't sign up for juggling lessons or for the Guitar Hero contest or the BNL trivia quiz. I don't sign up for yoga or wine-tasting or parasailing, scuba diving or sail-boating. I've already spent over a hundred dollars on cocktails as it is. I sit in the sun and read a book on Ozark folk magic and try not to think about the fact that the ship is now gliding past Guantánamo Bay.
 
 Tonight is our first show in the Black and Red Seas Lounge. It's a small room but still only about 20 people come. Most of the audience is made up of tired drunks who are drawn to the empty seats. Afterwards someone hands me a post-it note that says, "I love your music." It's amazing how much this little gesture cheers me up. The other nice surprise is that Kevin plays mandolin and accordion with us. This, I come to realize, is the norm for The Barenaked Ladies. BNL perform almost every night but the band members also make time to perform several times with their own side projects as well as make guest appearances with the other bands. After our show I, on the other hand, dump my banjo and head to the buffet. The most appetizing thing left under the heat lamps at 1am is a tray of powdered eggs.
 
 DAY THREE: I check in at the merchandise shop where they are doing a brisk business selling BNL beach towels, DVDs, CDs and shirts, but nothing sold by The Handsome Family. The ship is docked at Grand Cayman Island so we get off the boat and wander away from the stalls selling fake dread locks and Cuban cigars to find ourselves an empty stretch of beach. The hour I spend floating in the turquoise waves is actually so wonderful that I don't mind the next hour I spend waiting on line to get back on the ship.
 
 Tonight we play the main stage, the Caribbean Lounge. Ushers with flashlights are seating people as we play because BNL are scheduled to play after us. Gradually the room fills and people start to clap. Turns out we don't have the right wristbands to get into the BNL's show - sold out naturally - so we take our guitars down to our stateroom and watch it live on our TV. Afterwards we watch the Captain run through his hand-washing technique again. It's snowing hard in Denver.
 
 DAY FOUR: We awake docked in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I have a bad feeling as we pass the armed guards and the barbed-wire security gates on our way into town. The broken sidewalk that leads down the main street is lined with people. They gather around us as we approach and everybody wants something. They want to be my taxi driver, to lead me to secret waterfalls, to sell me necklaces, to braid my hair, to sell me pot and cigars. These are desperately poor people. A man leaning against a palm tree holds his hat out to us and begs for change. He has two wooden legs that seem to be constructed from pieces of old driftwood and a filthy crutch under one arm. My husband empties his wallet and we head back to the ship. Everyone else has paid to be taken away on shuttle buses to snorkel or jet ski or swim with dolphins. I wish I'd paid for an outing and didn't know about life in Ocho Rios.
 
 That night we play again in the Black and Red Seas Lounge. There are more people this time and they clap loudly after each song. I decide that I don't care if I ever jet-ski or parasail. All I want is this: to sing songs that make people feel something.
 
 Tonight is pajama night and everyone is walking around in satiny nightwear and slippers. I, of course, am dressed like a cross between a vampire and Loretta Lynn. After our show an enthusiastic fan follows us into the elevator and across the decks. She is wearing checkered pajamas and huge slippers that look like fuzzy lion heads and is talking a mile a minute about how much she liked our show.
 
 "You all are different!" She cries, but when we thank her some-what hesitantly she insists again, drunkenly. "No, I mean it. Listen to me! You all are really different!"
 
 We dump our equipment in our stateroom and go see the band Harvey Danger in the Adriatic Lounge. I stumble in the dark, trying to find a seat in the crowded bar and realize the strange, writhing lump on the floor is actually a passed-out drunk who I have woken by spilling half a martini on his head. Later, out on the Lido Deck in search of powdered eggs, two women grab me and try to force me to dance with them.
 
 "Come on," they scream, giggling madly as they gyrate to the sound of Gaellic Storm. "Let's Party!"
 
 DAY FIVE: I hide in my stateroom most of the day, listening to revelers running up and down the hallways on this last day of the cruise, feeling slightly guilty about lying in an air-conditioned stateroom on an enormous ship plowing needlessly through the ocean, scattering sea creatures and leaving a trail of pollution.
 
 Still, I admit to myself that being in a touring band is always about planes and buses and, at the very least, a pile of plastic jewel cases. The ship's entertainment director gets on the intercom to announce that the health spa is selling seaweed facials at a reduced price. I decide to get a roll of quarters at the casino and do laundry. Later at the sit-down dinner while I am eating my scoop of vanilla ice cream, the wait-staff gathers to sing the BNL hit, "If I had a $10000000." It's actually pretty sweet. I wish I could write a song that people gathered to sing in the dining room of a cruise ship, but I know, given that one of my greatest passions is collecting news stories about animals attacking humans, it's doubtful.
 
 DAY SIX: We dock in Miami and trudge down the gangway with our guitars and our heavy suitcases. Other passengers stop us as we pass and tell us how much they enjoyed our performances. Our carry-on bags are full of unsold CDs, but we have made a few new fans.
 
 There is a new blanket of snow covering Albuquerque. I wheel my suitcases up the icy driveway and think of the smiling drunks on the ship, all of them now returning to grey skies and office cubicles. Maybe it isn't such a bad thing to have a week in the sun with your favorite band. Still, if The Handsome Family ever organized a gathering like this it would probably be held in a flaming dirigible or 10,000 leagues under the sea.
 
   






NOVEMBER, 2007
You can watch a clip of us playing on the Irish TV show "Other Voices" here:

http://www.rte.ie/tv/othervoices/20071005otherv.html

Also there's a new Irish fan site:

http://www.bebo.com/TheHandsomeFamily


September, 2007


Hello again my faraway friends,

 
 Today we discuss a delightful 17TH CENTURY DINNER PARTY as well as all news big and small regarding THE HANDSOME FAMILY...
 
 To delight and amaze your guests make the likeness of a ship from a coarse pastry. Add flags and streamers of marzipan with such holes and trains of gun powder that they may all take fire at once. Place your ship on a platter with salt all about it as if at sea. Upon the next platter have a stag made from coarse pastry with a long arrow out of the side of him and his body filled with red wine...
 
 
** NEW PAINTING! There's one new Rennie painting up for sale. Have a look if you're interested:
 http://www.handsomefamily.com/secretplaces.html
 
 In the last platter build a castle with battlements, gates and drawbridges made of pastry and cannons made of marzipan. Inside fill with gunpowder and also let trains of gun powder come out over its walls in all directions. Upon the moat place egg shells filled with rosewater. Place the castle at a distance to the ship so that each may fire upon the other with your guests at the dining table in between...

 
** SEPTEMBER TOUR DATES FOR THE HANDSOME FAMILY:
 
 September 5, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO:
 Free show at Old Town Plaza, 8pm
 
 September 14, 2007, CHAPEL HILL, NC
 We're playing a special show sponsored by The Southern Folk Life Collection at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The evening will begin with a lecture by author Greil Marcus, followed by an hour long performance by The Handsome Family, followed by a Q&A session with Greil. FREE: 7pm, Pleasant's Room, 2nd floor in Wilson Library, UNC-CH, seating for 180 w/o tickets (first come, first seated)
 Schedule:
 5:00pm Reception
 6:00pm Greil Marcus lecture
 7:00pm Handsome Family performance
 8:00pm Q&A session
 
 Sun, Sept 16, ATHENS, OHIO: Casa Cantina
 
 Tue Sep 18 ARLINGTON, VA: Iota
 
 Thu Sep 20 PHILADELPHIA, PA: World Cafe Live, Downstairs
 
 Fri, Sep 21, HOBOKEN, NJ: Maxwell's (early show)
 
 Sat Sep 22, NYC, NY:  The Mercury Lounge, 11pm
 
 Sun, Sep 23, BOSTON, MA: The Great Scott
 
 
 Next to the stag place a pie made of pastry in which there be live frogs and in another live birds. Make the pies thusly of a coarse pastry filled with bran. Bake them and decorate with gold-gilded bay leaves. The pies being baked, make a hole in the bottom and take out the bran. Put in living frogs and birds and close up again with pastry...


 
 **OCTOBER, 2007, THE HANDSOME FAMILY IN LONDON:
 OCTOBER 24: BBC’s ELECTRIC PROM WITH CHARLIE LOUVIN. We are so honored to have been invited to sing one or two songs with our idol.
 OCTOBER 28: THE PLAGUE SONGS at BARBICAN HALL:
 We shall be recreating the Stephen Merritt contribution to the original Margate Plague Songs as well as contributing our own brand new plague song. There will be an amazing array of musicians playing with us and contributing their own plague songs to the event. More details to come.
www.barbican.org.uk ---for more information.
 
 **NOVEMBER, 2007, EUROPE: We are working on a few other dates in the UK as well as hopefully two show in Ireland and maybe even a few dates in Italy. More info to come as things are confirmed.


 After your guests are seated, fire the trains of powder off the castle so all the pieces of its sides may go off. Now fire the powder trains about the ship so as to make a battle. To sweeten the stink of gun powder let the ladies take the eggshells full of rose water and throw them at each other. Your guests shall suppose all dangers are over by this time. Now order some of the ladies to pluck the arrow out of the stag so that the claret will flow like blood coming from a wound...

 
**JANUARY, 2008: WE’RE FINALLY READY FOR THE SHIPS...Never thought I’d say this, but we’re playing on a cruise. The Barenaked Ladies have invited us to be one of the musical guests on their latest ‘Ships and Dips’ Cruise. Details (that don’t include us yet) are here:
http://www.shipsanddip.com/

 
 Now let them see what is in the pies. Lift off the lid of one pie and out come the frogs which makes the ladies skip and shriek. Next open the other pie which frees the birds who by instinct shall fly at the light and will put out the candles. In total darkness with flying birds and skipping frogs the one above and the other beneath there will be much delight and pleasure to the company...
 Adapted without permission from "Seven Centuries of English Cooking" by Maxime de La Falaise (thanks to Ara!)

 
 Adieu my friends.
 Free the birds from your pies. Blow up your castles. Follow strange trails into the woods...xo Rennie
 
 
 
  



JUNE, 2007

A salute to BIRD LOVERS and friends of THE HANDSOME FAMILY...

Can you hear the tap-tap-tapping from the old box elder tree in the early dawn? ‘Tis the woodpecker hammering with his mighty beak. He chisels at the tree trunk not only to root out insects, but also to signal possession of territory to rivals passing by overhead. Yes, woodpecker hearing is acute. These birds hear the soft slither of insect larvae tunneling deep within tree trunks even as they fly far above the cloud covering among the seraphim. Larvae carve long winding tunnels within the darkness of dying trees. These tunnels may twist for miles without ever twisting back upon themselves. Many a woodsman has lost all reason attempting to trace a single tunnel with a gloved thumb. Woodpeckers listen carefully and long before making their first tap...


Once a larvae tunnel is located, the careful woodpecker hammers the wood until he has made an opening large enough for his tongue. The tongue of the woodpecker is long and ends in a razor-sharp barb. The tongue snakes through the larvae tunnels until it finds its prey. The woodpecker skewers the grub then draws it at lightning speeds from the trunk. The great friction of speeding tongue rushing away from the wood will often cause the tree to appear to burst briefly into flames (See also ‘Will ‘O the Wisp’). The woodpecker is not harmed (though the tree may be permanently discolored and its branches gnarled into a frightening silhouette) and, indeed, the lucky bird is able to roll his long tongue completely around his inner skull cavity and down the laces of his rib cage until it is completely hidden from view. Thusly the woodpecker retires to his nest for the well-earned escape of dreams.


Listen well, friends, and hear the soft tap-tap-tapping... Xo Rennie


PS. Some of my favorite woodpeckers...


Golden-fronted Woodpecker

White Woodpecker
Guadeloupe Woodpecker
Puerto Rican Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker
Jamaican Woodpecker
Golden-cheeked Woodpecker
Gray-breasted Woodpecker
Yucatan Woodpecker
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Little Grey Woodpecker
Speckle-breasted Woodpecker
Melancholy Woodpecker
Bearded Woodpecker
Fire-bellied Woodpecker
Olive Woodpecker
Brown-backed Woodpecker
Pygmy Woodpecker
Stripe-breasted Woodpecker
Darjeeling Woodpecker
Crimson-breasted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Syrian Woodpecker
White-winged Woodpecker
Himalayan Woodpecker
Spotted Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Smoky-brown Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
White-headed Woodpecker
American Three-toed Woodpecker
Black-backed Woodpecker
Red-rumped Woodpecker
Golden-collared Woodpecker
Yellow-eared Woodpecker
Red-stained Woodpecker
Bar-bellied Woodpecker
Scarlet-backed Woodpecker
Blood-colored Woodpecker
Checkered Woodpecker
Golden-tailed Woodpecker
Green-backed Woodpecker
Brown-eared Woodpecker
Black-rumped Flameback
Black-rumped Flameback
Heart-spotted Woodpecker
Crimson-winged Woodpecker
Streak-throated Woodpecker
Scaly-bellied Woodpecker
Japanese Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker
Sooty Woodpecker
Helmeted Woodpecker
White-bellied Woodpecker
Cinnamon Woodpecker
Cream-colored Woodpecker
Yellow-throated Woodpecker
Golden-green Woodpecker
Yellow-browed Woodpecker
Green-barred Woodpecker



JANUARY, 2007

This evening we discuss the mysterious SALAMANDER as well as HANDSOME FAMILY tour dates and other ephemera...
 
 It's true that the Salamander superficially resembles the lizard, but it is easily distinguished by its lack of scales, its ability to regenerate lost limbs, and its habit of sleeping inside rapidly burning fires. Species of salamanders are numerous and found in moist or aqueous habitats in the northern hemisphere. Most are small but some reach up to 30 feet in length and can often inadvertently knock over buildings with a swing of the tail.
 
  FEBRUARY, 2007
 THE HANDSOME FAMILY IN NEW ZEALAND...
Wednesday 7th February - Wellington - San Francisco Bath House
Thursday 8 February Auckland - The Dogs Bollix
Friday 9 February Auckland  - The Dogs Bollix
Saturday 10 February  Bay of Islands - The Venue at Wharepuke, Kerikeri.
 Tickets on sale nationally at Ticketmaster.co.nz, The Venues and Real Groovy stores.
 
 THE HANDSOME FAMILY IN AUSTRALIA...
 Sun 18th Feb – Zoo, Brisbane
 Tues 20th Feb –Basement, Sydney
 Wed 21st Feb – Grace Emily, Adelaide
 Thurs 22nd Feb – East Brunswick, Melbourne
 Fri 23rd Feb – Palais, Melbourne
 (tickets for palais show: http://livemusic.moshtix.com.au)
 Sun 25th Feb – Perth International Arts Festival, Perth
 
 Early travelers to China were shown garments supposedly woven from salamander wool; the cloth was completely impervious to fire. Some salamanders hibernate in and under rotting logs. When wood is brought indoors and put on the fire, the creatures awaken and stare calmly out from the flames. Be wary: Salamander fire burns brightly, blindness is a possibility and/or the urge to dance for days on end to violin music no one else can hear. Because of this, salamanders have been unjustly associated with dragons and the lizards used in standard witches' flying ointment.
 
 MORE HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES
 April/May, 2007, EUROPE: No comfirmed dates yet. Most likely Ireland, Italy, Norway.
 
 August, 2007, OREGON, USA:
 We’ll be appearing at the 2007 Pickathon, Aug. 3-4, 2007, Pendarvis Farm, Happy Valley, OR (www.pickathon.com)
 
 September, 2007, EAST COAST, USA: we’ll be playing a special show sponsored by The Southern Folk Life Collection at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The show will include an hour long performance as well as an hour long Q&A session with author Greil Marcus. The final date for the show has not yet been confirmed. Several other east coast dates are in the works as well.
 
 Examining the patterns and colors of the salamander can help us discover buried treasure and the faces of unknown enemies. The salamander hears and responds to low frequency tones rather then high pitched ones. These tones can help us gain entry into the underworld. To strengthen one's sensitivity to such sounds playing the didgeridoo and joining drumming circles in forest clearings is helpful.
 
 Typical salamanders undergo a larval stage that can last for a period of a few days to several hundred years. Like other amphibians the salamander absorbs water through its skin and needs a moist habitat in which to live. The word amphibian comes from two words--"amphi" = "double" and "bios" = life. Amphibians divide their life between land and water. For this reason, salamanders are often regarded as the keepers of dreams.
 
 We will have some new posters on sale on the website soon (www.handsomefamily.com), handmade by Steve Walters at Screwball Press. Also, in the works is the Handsome Family Songbook featuring sheet music, chords, and lyrics for a collection of our songs.
 
 Alchemists often took advice from salamanders who visited them in their dreams. Sadly this led to lab explosions and, in one famous case, the great Alchemist, Johan of Aachen (only days away from actually turning dog excrement into pure gold after many years of work) was persuaded by a dream salamander to not only burn his meticulous notebooks, but also his treasured green slippers and a silk robe embroidered with astrological symbols. Needless to say, the great man never recovered from the setback. He gave up his search for the legendary lapis and opened up a roadside tavern famous for a blackbird pie that, when cut open, astounded diners with up to 60 tiny blackbirds flying out of the steaming crust and singing a melodious song.
 
 Wander the swamps, listen in basements, climb tall trees. Xo Rennie 



SEPTEMBER, 2006


On Sep 15, 2006, at 12:26 PM, The Handsome Family wrote:


 Autumn Friends,
 
 Yes, we all love the helpful cunning woman (smiling from the window of her gingerbread house, healing broken bones with a touch of her gnarled hand, fluent in the language of birds), but what of the evil-minded witch? As Halloween approaches we're likely to again encounter her foul ways. Be wary, it’s not a mere apple filled with razor blades or a broomstick dancing in the moonlight. Gentle reader, herein learn the signs of true bedevilment as well as find TOUR DATES and PAINTINGS from THE HANDSOME FAMILY...
 
 THE SIGNS:
 1. cows give sour milk
 2.butter spoils too quickly
 3.children generally inconsolable
 5.stormy weather (hail, wind, rain of frogs and/or blood)
 6.poisoned apples (one bite may induce coma)
 7.unexplained cackling at crossroads, riversides, abandoned quarries
 8.piglets dancing
 9.vomiting up black roses, sharp pins, wads of dog hair or the like
 10.unexplained pooling of water in family room (often boiling)
 11.white robed figure gliding silently through forest
 12.thousands of yellow birds gathering in nearby trees
 13.common household dowsing rod turned to hissing snake
 14.razors dulled, knives missing, scissors dancing across bedspread
 15.family cat disappears into crack in wall and/or offers to help you make invisibility cream using a lock of your own hair
 
 I STILL HAVE TWO PAINTINGS FOR SALE:
 http://www.handsomefamily.com/forestsaints.html
 
 REVEAL THE WYRDING WITCH! Think carefully! Did you refuse an old woman a piece of sausage at your wedding? Did you spit into a still pond and disturb a sleeping swan? Did you see a white hare hop over your grave in a rainstorm? Place a lock of your hair and/or fresh nail parings in boiling water. The witch will draw near. Burn witch cakes (made of rye meal and your own fresh urine) near enchanted well. Witch will soon arrive riding goat backwards. Bind her with the fingers of a hanged man dipped in milk and/or a circle of rowan branches.
 
 TOUR DATES
 UNITED KINGDOM (see below for more dates in October)
 Wed 20 Sept. LONDON ARTS THEATRE, 6/7 Great Newport Street, London WC2
 £17.50 adv. Doors - 7pm, 0870 0601742   
 www.ticketmaster.co.uk <http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk>  (Note to anyone who’s had trouble purchasing our tickets: search for "Handsome Family" as they have listed our name without the 'The')
 
 SCANDINAVIA
 Sat   23    Sep   DENMARK    ARHUS, Voxhaus
 Sun    24    Sep  DENMARK    COPENGHAGEN, Loppen
 Tue    26    Sep  SWEDEN    STOCKHOLM, Café Teatern
 Wed    27    Sep  SWEDEN    GOTHENBURG, Pusterviksen
 Thu    28    Sep  NORWAY    OSLO, Elm Street
 Sat    30    Sep  NORWAY    STAVANGER, Cementen
 
 IRELAND
 Wed and Thu, 4 and 5, Oct    IRELAND    DUBLIN, The Point
 THE POINT SHOWS: We’re part of a big line-up of musicians for The Dublin Theatre Festival’s “Came So Far for Beauty”--an evening of Leonard Cohen songs. For further info: http://www.dublintheatrefestival.com. Sorry, we've been asked by the Dublin Festival not to book any other Irish dates around the time of these shows. Looks like we’ll be back in March, 2007.
 
 UNITED KINGDOM
 Sat    7    Oct    PONTARDAWE  ARTS CENTRE (with The Burning Leaves)
 tickets:01792 - 863722, www.neath-porttalbot.gov.uk/pontardaweartscentre <http://www.neath-porttalbot.gov.uk/pontardaweartscentre>
 Sun    8    Oct    RUNCORN     THE BRINDLEY ARTS CENTRE
 (with The Burning Leaves), tickets:    0151 907 8360  
 Mon    9    Oct    SHEFFIELD     MEMORIAL HALL  
 tickets:    01142 789 789    www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk <http://www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk>
 Tue    10    Oct    BIRMINGHAM    GLEE CLUB          
 tickets: 0870 241 5093    www.glee.co.uk <http://www.glee.co.uk>
 Thu    12    Oct    GLASGOW     ABC2             
 tickets:  08700 600 100    www.ticketweb.co.uk <http://www.ticketweb.co.uk>
 Fri    13    Oct    STIRLING    TOLLBOOTH         
 tickets: 01786 27 4000    www.stirling.gov.uk/tolbooth <http://www.stirling.gov.uk/tolbooth>
 Sat    14    Oct    FORT WILLIAM       LIME TREE           
 tickets:           www.limetreestudio.co.uk <http://www.limetreestudio.co.uk>
 Sun    15    Oct    ABERDEEN    LEMON TREE         
 tickets:  01224 642 230    www.lemontree.org <http://www.lemontree.org>
 
 USA
 
 ALBUQUERQUE:
 OCT 21, Los Poblanos Organics Farm Harvest Festival.
 We’re still in the planning stages, but this is a daytime event and you can find out the details here:
 http://www.lospoblanos.com/calendar/
 
 NOVEMBER, 2006, West Coast USA
 We’re doing a six-show tour of the west coast as support for the legendary band Wall of Voodoo. Also adding a few shows of our own (possibly with The Darling Downs) before and after. More details to come. So far...
 
 Nov 27 '06 (8:00 PM), Solana Beach, CA, Belly Up Tavern with Wall Of Voodoo
 Nov 29 '06 (8:30 PM), House of Blues Los Angeles with Wall Of Voodoo
 Nov 30 '06 (9:00 PM), House of Blues Anaheim, CA with Wall Of Voodoo
 Dec 2 '06 (9:00 PM), San Francisco, CA, Slim's with Wall Of Voodoo
 Seattle and Portland dates TBA, with Wall of Voodoo. Also solo dates in Tucson, Pioneertown, and possibly Vancouver, Denver, Salt Lake City.
 
 AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND
 We’ll definitely be in both places in February, 2007. So far only confirmed event is the Perth Festival.
 
 "Let girls do the spelling, I'll do the shooting" --Daniel Boone
 
 Xo Rennie
  




AUGUST, 2006

AWAKE SLEEPWALKERS! Revolution is upon us! The ANIMAL KINGDOM begins organized attacks against MANKIND! Read on and be forewarned (as well as learn of the latest doings from THE HANDSOME FAMILY)...
 
 N.M. Power Outage Blamed on Snake, Bird
 From Associated Press
 July 13, 2006 7:00 AM EDT
 (thanks to Luke B. for sending this to me)
 
 LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A power outage that blacked out about 2,000 customers in
 Las Cruces is being blamed on the combination of a snake and a bird.
 
 The customers lost their electricity Tuesday after a bird dropped a bull
 snake on a power line, shorting out the line, El Paso Electric Co.
 spokeswoman Teresa Souza said.
 
 "I know that's weird. ... I've never heard anything like that and I've been
 working here for 10 years," Souza said.
 
 She said she did not know how large the snake was, and she would not
 speculate on what type of bird dropped it.
 
 Power was restored in less than an hour.
 
 TOUR DATES...
 ALBUQUERQUE:
 August 23, 8-9pm, mellow, acoustic show with just Brett and Rennie at the Old Town Plaza Gazebo. FREE!
 
 EUROPE (SEPT/OCT):
 UK...
 Wed 20 Sept. LONDON     ARTS THEATRE–(**THIS DATE IS STILL TO BE CONFIRMED**)
 Ticket: 0870 0601742     www.ticketmaster.co.uk <http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk>  / www.artstheatrelondon.com <http://www.artstheatrelondon.com>
 
 SCANDINAVIA...
 Sat   23    Sep   DENMARK    ARHUS, Voxhaus
 Sun    24    Sep  DENMARK    COPENGHAGEN, Loppen
 Tue    26    Sep  SWEDEN    STOCKHOLM, Café Teatern
 Wed    27    Sep  SWEDEN    GOTHENBURG, Pusterviksen
 Thu    28    Sep  NORWAY    OSLO, Elm Street
 Sat    30    Sep  NORWAY    STAVANGER, Cementen
 
 IRELAND...
 Wed    4    Oct    IRELAND    DUBLIN, The Point
 Thu    5    Oct    IRELAND    DUBLIN, The Point
 THE POINT SHOWS: We’re part of a big line-up of musicians for The Dublin Theatre Festival’s “Came So Far for Beauty”--an evening of Leonard Cohen songs. For further info: http://www.dublintheatrefestival.com. Sorry, we've been asked by the Dublin Festival not to book any other Irish dates around the time of these shows. Looks like we’ll be back in March, 2007.
 
 UK...
 Sat    7    Oct    PONTARDAWE  ARTS CENTRE (with The Burning Leaves)
 tickets:        01792 - 863722  
 www.neath-porttalbot.gov.uk/pontardaweartscentre
 
 Sun    8    Oct    RUNCORN     THE BRINDLEY ARTS CENTRE (with The Burning Leaves)
 tickets:    0151 907 8360   
 
 Mon    9    Oct    SHEFFIELD     MEMORIAL HALL   
 tickets:    01142 789 789    www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk
 
 Tue    10    Oct    BIRMINGHAM    GLEE CLUB           
 tickets: 0870 241 5093    www.glee.co.uk
 
 Thu    12    Oct    GLASGOW     ABC2              
 tickets:  08700 600 100    www.ticketweb.co.uk
 
 Fri    13    Oct    STIRLING    TOLLBOOTH          
 tickets: 01786 27 4000    www.stirling.gov.uk/tolbooth
 
 Sat    14    Oct    FORT WILLIAM LIME TREE            
 tickets:           www.limetreestudio.co.uk
 
 Sun    15    Oct    ABERDEEN    LEMON TREE          
 tickets:  01224 642 230    www.lemontree.org
 
 
 NOVEMBER, 2006, West Coast USA...
 We’re doing a six-show tour of the west coast as support for the legendary band Wall of Voodoo. Also adding a few shows of our own (possibly with The Darling Downs) before and after. More details to come.
 
 Wall of Voodoo shows (sorry no venues yet):
 11/27 - San Diego
 11/29 - LA
 11/30 - Anaheim
 12/2 - San Francisco
 12/4 - Portland
 12/5 - Seattle (still pending).
 
 FEBRUARY, 2007
 Still planning our trip to Australia and New Zealand
 
 OTHER NEWS
 LADIES’ SHIRT: We have a new spaghetti strap ladies’ shirt. Have a peek at:
http://www.handsomefamily.com/Nmerch.html
 PAINTINGS: I have two new paintings up for sale!
http://www.handsomefamily.com/forestsaints.html
 
 THE REVOLUTION CONTINUES
 Squirrels have bitten to death a stray dog which was barking at them in a Russian park, local media report.
 (thanks to Eric J. for sending this)
 
 Passers-by were too late to stop the attack by the black squirrels in a village in the far east, which reportedly lasted about a minute. They are said to have scampered off at the sight of humans, some carrying pieces of flesh. A pine cone shortage may have led the squirrels to seek other food sources, although scientists are skeptical. The attack was reported in parkland in the centre of Lazo, a village in the Maritime Territory, and was witnessed by three local people.
 
 A "big" stray dog was nosing about the trees and barking at squirrels hiding in branches overhead when a number of them suddenly descended and attacked, reports say.
 
 "When they saw the men, they scattered in different directions, taking pieces of their kill away with them."
 
 Mikhail Tiyunov, a scientist in the region, said it was the first he had ever heard of such an attack. While squirrels without sources of protein might attack birds' nests, he said, the idea of them chewing a dog to death was "absurd".
 
 Adieu, Rennie 




JUNE, 2006
 Garden of Green Delights and A New CD...

The Greeks adorned their tombs with parsley wreaths for the plant was said to have sprung from the blood of the baby, Archemorus (literally, “forerunner of death”) who, left alone on a riverbank by his nursemaid, was dragged into the water by a dragon and devoured. There is an old superstition against transplanting parsley. The herb is dedicated to Persephone and to Charon, the winged demon who floats his ferry across the river Styx, giving passage to the dead if they bear a coin upon their tongue. Those who cannot afford his fee are doomed to wander the banks of the Styx forever. Each time a parsley plant be picked another penniless soul begins its aimless walk...

OUR NEW CD: “Last Days of Wonder” is available now! You can order it from us and read some reviews at www.handsomefamily.com or support your local indie record shop and buy it there. In brief, the new CD is a collection of love songs sung in airports, garbage dumps, drive-thru windows and shark-infested waters. The CD is about little miraculous moments in everyday life: a golf course shining in the rain, hanging lights bouncing in the breeze, pigeons singing from billboards...We hope you like it.

Parsley is often called, "The Devil's Oatmeal," but all those who discover why this name be used are found dead soon thereafter. Turner says, 'if parsley is thrown into fishponds it will heal the sick fishes therein.' The plain-leaved parsley bears a close resemblance to Fool's Parsley, a noxious weed infesting gardens and fields. Fool’s Parsley is also called Aethusa, derived from the Arab word 'ai' which means burning. Aethusa is said to soothe high fevers when such fevers are accompanied by raving, sleepiness, clenched thumbs, a great love for animals and an undying terror of darkness.

TOUR DATES...In celebration of our new CD we head off in a rented van again...

JUNE 24, ALBUQUERQUE, NM, The Launchpad with Fast Heart Mart and The Rivet Gang. We’ll have a five-piece band at this show!

TOUR DATES: USA, CANADA, JULY, 2006
with meat puppet Curt Kirkwood (http://www.curtkirkwood.com/). We’ll be a four-piece band for this tour with special guests, Stephen Dorocke (playing lap steel, violin and mandolin) and Jason Toth on drums.

7/10 - Minneapolis at the 400 Bar
7/11 - Milwaukee at Shank Hall
7/13 - Chicago at Abbey Pub
7/14 - Detroit at Magic Stick
7/15 - Toronto at the Horseshoe Tavern
7/18 - Boston at TT the Bears
7/20 - NYC at the Mercury Lounge
7/21 - Philadelphia at the World Café Live
7/22 - Arlington at the Iota
7/23 - Charlottesville at the Starr Hill Music Hall
7/24 - Carrboro at Local 506
7/26 - Atlanta at the Earl

ROUGH PLANS...More details soon...

EUROPE, SEPTEMBER and OCTOBER, 2006
Denmark, Sweden, Norway, United Kingdom

USA, NOVEMBER, 2006
We’ll be heading to the west coast of the USA in November. Details to come.

AUSTRALIA, FEBRUARY, 2007

SPRING, 2007: Spain, Ireland

Of our Garden Parsley (which he calls Parsele) Gerard says, 'It is delightful to the taste and agreeable to the stomache,' also 'the roots or seeds boiled in ale and drank, cast foorth strong venome or poyson.' Parsley may be fatal to small birds and a deadly poison to parrots, also very injurious to fowls, but hares and rabbits will come from a great distance to seek it. Sheep are also fond of it, and it is said to preserve them from foot rot, provided it be given in sufficient quantities. The uses of Parsley are many and are by no means restricted to the culinary sphere. The most familiar employment of the leaves in their fresh state is, of course, finely-chopped, as a flavoring to sauces, soups, stuffings, rissoles, minces, etc. The leaves are also dried and powdered as a flavoring.

MORE BITS AT YE OLDE MERCHANDISE SHOPPE...Besides the new cd we also have two new POSTERS for sale and our friend Greg Hansen has a whole batch of new AMPS for sale. To look at the new posters and/or the new amps go to: www.handsomefamily.com then click on ‘merchandise’. I shall have three new PAINTINGS to sell very soon (as soon as I finish framing them) so e-mail me if you want to be notified when they go up for sale (only if you haven’t e-mailed me already about paintings).

Medicinally, the two-year-old roots are employed, also the leaves, dried, for making Parsley Tea (often given to soldiers in the trenches suffering from dysentery). From the seeds may be extracted an oil called Apiol, which is of considerable curative value. It exercises a singular influence on the great nerve centres of the head and spine, and in large doses produces giddiness and deafness, fall of blood-pressure, slowing of the pulse and paralysis.  Parsley is chiefly used for its diuretic properties, a strong decoction of the root being of great service in passing kidney stones, as well as easing dropsy and jaundice. A decoction of bruised Parsley seeds was at one time employed against plague and often woven into flowered or feathered masks worn by wealthy merchants attending society balls in the late 1400’s. In France, a popular remedy for scrofulous swellings is green Parsley and snails, pounded in a mortar to an ointment, spread on linen and applied daily. Galen, “commendeth it for the falling sicknes.... The juice dropped into the ears with a little wine easeth all pain and brings a great forgetfulness of spirit in which even one’s own hands look unfamiliar.” Water of Parsley is given to children troubled with vapors. Not to be confused with Hungary Water, Rose Water, Monkey’s Paw Drops and/or The Wine of Infinite Sorrows.

From the salad bar of darkness I bid you adieu. Xo Rennie


APRIL 2006

Hello again my mysterious friend,

Herein find The Dance of the Bubbles as well as the latest News and Tour Dates for THE HANDSOME FAMILY. Be bold, gentle reader and continue...

A Graceful Ballet across the ethers of time and space...
You'll need a dry, cool day for this experiment and little white leaves must be falling from a westward wind. Are dogs howling? Act quickly, friend. First, add a little sugar to a bowl of soapy water and blow some bubbles into it with a straw, a glass tube or a carved ebony pipe. This bubble mixture will make jumbo-sized bubbles which are much less delicate than normal bubbles. Don't be frightened of these gigantic bubbles. Nature’s ways are mysterious but she is a benevolent host (save for a few bad apples and the carnivores and the vicious food chain above and below the sea).

TOUR DATES: NEW MEXICO: APRIL AND JUNE, 2006
APRIL 29--SANTA FE at Club Alegria (Lower Agua Fria Rd. just east of Siler Rd) 8pm opening for Son Volt. Tickets: 988-1234.
JUNE 24—ALBUQUERQUE at The Launch Pad with Fast Heart Mart and The Rivet Gang

Friend, let your bubbles rise into the air. Catch them upon a soft, dry wool or flannel cloth carefully embroidered with Mayan pictographs of air and fire. Now let these soap windows rest and harden as you prepare to look into the future. What would you like to see? The fate of the rainforests? Your own death? The moment our sun explodes? The day that aliens return to reseed our planet with microbes? Caution: do not attempt to see or hear the piercing note of Shiva's bell that simultaneously destroys and recreates the universe. Serious skin inflammation and permanent hearing loss may occur!

A NEW RECORD! At last we have a new record to be released in the UK in late May and the rest of the world in early June. The record’s called, “Last Days of Wonder” and we’ll be touring a lot to support it. Here’s a mini-site devoted to the record (artfully put together by our UK label, Loose): http://www.lastdaysofwonder.info/

UNITED KINGDOM TOUR DATES: MAY and JUNE, 2006
Fri 12 May - BIRKENHEAD PACIFIC ROAD ARTS CENTRE 0151 647 0752 /www.pacificroad.co.uk 
Sat 13 May - MORECAMBE THE PLATFORM 01524 582803   
Sun 14 May - SALFORD THE LOWRY (with ADEM) 0870 7875796 www.thelowry.com 
Mon 15 May –EDINBURGH - THE CABARET VOLTAIRE: (0131) 220 6176, 36 Blair Street, Edinburgh
Fri 19 May- EXETER PHOENIX ARTS CENTRE: 01392 667080 www.exeterphoenix.org.uk/ 
Sat 20 May - BRIGHTON DOME (support for HOWE GELB+VOICES OF PRAISE GOSPEL CHOIR) www.brighton-dome.org.uk 
Sun 21 May -DERBY  GUILDHALL THEATRE 01332 255 800 www.assemblyrooms-derby.co.uk 
 Tue 23 May - LEICESTER MUSICIAN  0116 255 4854  www.themusicianpub.co.uk 
 Wed 24 May - WOLVERHAMPTON  LITTLE CIVIC 01902 552121   www.wolvescivic.co.uk 
 Thu 25 May -  LONDON SCALA  08700 600 100 www.scala-london.co.uk 
 Sat 27 May - YORK  N.C.E.M CENTRE - YORK FESTIVAL 01904 658338 www.ncem.co.uk 
 Sun 28 May - FARNDALE, YORKS THE BAND ROOM 01751 432900 www.thebandroom.co.uk 
 Mon 29 May -  NEWCASTLE EVOLUTION FESTIVAL free event www.efestivals.co.uk 
 Wed 31 May - READING  SOUTH ST. 0118 960 6060 www.readingarts.com 
 Thu 1 Jun BRISTOL - ST GEORGES 0845 402 4001  www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk 
 Fri 2 Jun - BRIDGWATER ARTS CENTRE 01278 422700 www.bridgwaterartscentre.co.uk 
 Sat 3 Jun - CHELTENHAM WYCHWOOD FESTIVAL 012242 227979 www.wychwoodfestival.com 

I digress. What you wish to see inside your time bubble is your own concern. Me, I'm going to ask to see the day that the squirrels rise up and force us all to pile hazelnuts until we drop from exhaustion. Vive la revolution!

TOUR DATES: USA, CANADA, JULY, 2006
with meat puppet Curt Kirkwood (http://www.curtkirkwood.com/) Nothing’s confirmed yet, but here’s a rough idea...
Denver,  Minneapolis,  Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Charlottesville, Carrboro, Atlanta....More details to come
 
To continue... Find a wool glove left upon a mossy gravestone and slide it gently onto your shapely fingers. Now hold a piece of thick paper in front of a fire or a radiator until it is quite dry. Rub briskly with a stiff brush to give it a charge of static electricity. Hold this electric paper over the largest of your bubbles. Lo! Watch as your bubble turns from ball to egg as it stretches upwards to reach out to the dry paper! On this perfect cold, dry day the paper will attract the bubble strongly. Yes, friend, inside this window the future is revealed!

TOUR DATES: EUROPE, SEPTEMBER and OCTOBER, 2006
We’re working on some dates in other parts of Europe for the Autumn: Scandinavia, Holland, etc. Also, we’ll be performing in Dublin as part of  “Came So Far For Beauty” a tribute to Leonard Cohen at The Point (October 4 and 5). It’s a show sponsored by the Dublin International Theatre Festival. More details to come.

Careful! Hold the bubble balanced between the wool cloth and the dry paper for twelve hours (preferably during waning moon) repeating the words, "Reveal, Lucifer, Lord of Light!" until at the corners of your vision you begin to see shadows dancing and hear the crackle of a large brush fire.

TOUR DATES: NOVEMBER, USA, 2006
We’ll be heading to the west coast in November. Details to come.

Stare into your bubble and be not afraid! Time is not linear. All of this is dream even your fear of dreaming! See your heart’s desire and your worst fears revealed. Are they not one and the same beast? Pass through this bardo to tranquility. In rare cases catatonic stupor, strong smell of burning hair, triangular skin scarring, pronounced limp and/or permanent loss of equilibrium have been reported, but most side effects are not serious. Consult your physician or seek out a good violinist if you develop the urge to dance the tarantella for four hours or more.

Note well: IRISH TOUR DATES...
We may not be allowed by the Festival to do any other shows in Ireland while we’re there for the Leonard Cohen tribute show, but we’ll definitely be back for something big in mid to late January.

PAINTINGS..
I’ve been doing a lot of pet portraits lately. Have a look if you’re curious:
http://www.handsomefamily.com/paintingintro.html
There’s also a page that tells all you ever need to know about purchasing paintings from me (commissioned or otherwise):
http://www.handsomefamily.com/paintingpurchases.html

Fear not the future. It’s already come and passed..xo Rennie


PS. For those stuck in a cubicle with naught else to do but surf this virtual world. I just edited a collection of anonymously-submitted love letters:
http://collectiveexperience.org/love/love.html

OCTOBER 2005
With great pride we announce that Christy Moore's new cd entitled, "Burning Times" contains two gorgeously covered Handsome Family songs. Thank you Christy!

The time is nigh...
"For A Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records" will be released on
October 25th including a new recording from the Handsome Family.

http://www.bloodshotrecords.com/album/bloodshotrecordscompilations/183



SEPTEMBER, 2005

GENTLE READER, may this letter find you hale with good appetite. Find below many healthful tonics for fevers of the brain, bone, and blood as well as the latest doings of THE HANDSOME FAMILY...

Oct. 6-- We'll be guests on KUNM in Albuquerque with host Cynthia Hernandez at 3pm (mountain time) If you have nothing better to do you can listen in from out of town at: http://www.kunm.org/home.php

For the cleaning of teeth: cut thrice the saplings of oak under the fullest moon. Dry them in the shadow of a black mare. Pulverize oyster shells and the bones of several hanged men. Add fresh conserve of roses. Apply such paste morning and night with said oak sapling. Never a brighter smile!

October 8 we re playing at the El Rey Theatre in Albuquerque -- doors at 7pm, we're on stage around 10pm. $10 admission. Proceeds go to Breast Cancer Research (UNM Cancer Research/Treatment Center and PLTC-People Living Through Cancer).

To relieve the ache of body or mind: turpentine that issueth from the cones of the Larch Tree is singularly good to relieve all pain when mixed with powder of sage and left in the forest to be sung to by sparrows for at least three nights.

We re hard at work on a new record. Hopefully we ll have it done by year s end and released early 2006.

Vapours and hysteric fits: None may say they have not felt the thumping heart, the croaking gut, the fearsome urge to walk into still lakes with pockets full of stones! A great heaviness and dejection of spirit and a general gathering of bile that no amount of blood-letting may quench. Cleanse stomach by taking two pills of iron with a  warm glass of milk. Once the iron pills pass out of body again, you shall know peace untold and a firmness of vision that shall make the very mountains kneel before your iron will.

Paintings: I should have several new paintings for sale in about a month. I'll send out another e-mail when they're up on the website.

Sinus pain: weare a wilde catts skin on ye places grieved

Myspace.com c woe unto those of you poor souls addicted to this game as am I. Let s be friends. I am now checking my page at a rate of 25-30 times per hour.

To make hair grow: two ounces of the ashes of burnt bees, one drachm of a drunkard's tears, make an ointment of these and the day before the full moon shave the place and anoint. Thy hair shall grow like mountain rivers to fill the very streets with your golden curls.

February in Chicagot what nicer time to visit the fair winds of the midwest? We re waiting for confirmation of a show to celebrate the DVD release of The Search for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus”.

When crooked and lame: lie upon bear skins newly flead off and with some of such skins laid upon one now spend the night in such a sweat! Anouinting with boars grease will harden one to the cold and is good upon the temples when the voices of the dead are heard too loudly and often.

Enjoy the fall colors, friends. Xo Rennie

Inflammation of the throat: a swallow's nest stamped down and applied to the throat outwardly will allay such suffering and give one such a voice that all manner of birds shall gather upon thy form as you walk upon the cliffs.


JUNE, 2005:

LATEST NEWS and SPIRIT BOTTLES...

PAINTINGS - Ever wonder what I see when I close my eyes? My first public display of paintings is up on our website now. Yes, they are for sale. http://www.handsomefamily.com/paintingpage.html

JESUS! - Look for the release of "Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus" in select U.S. theatres this July as well as on DVD in October and on the Sundance Channel by late 2005/early 2006. Lots of great musicians appear in this film plus you can see us performing on a house boat whilst trying not to get electrocuted. For more information: www.searchingforthewrongeyedjesus.com

NEW SONGStWe're finally starting to work on a new record. Also finishing that fence in the back yard. That should keep the stray dogs out.


Ah, the balmy nights of summer when the spirits of the dead pass freely into our world. Why not take some time to protect doors and windows from the undead and/or ancestral demons?

It's so easy to make a room ghost-free and keep it that way! First hang ghost mirrors at all entranceways. Take one large mirror and shatter into several small pieces with the back of your hand. These slivers of light also work well to ripen beefsteak tomatoes. Paint doors and window sills a bright blue. Draw large, all-seeing eye on headboard with black marker. Dried henbane and/or goat toenails should be hung on all appropriate door knobs.

Now that your bedroom is no longer a portal to astral dimensions it s time to tidy up the yard. A bottle tree is the easiest most cost-efficient method of clearing the cries of the undead from around the patio area. A thrift store plastic Christmas tree works well for this (silver or white are best). Alternatively, you may take an ordinary tree in your yard, strip it of all leaves and paint it white (or blood-red when seasonal). Hang empty bottles on all limbs of tree. Blue bottles work best though other colors may work especially if they are bright. Remember, to the dead our world looks as drab as a dirty reel of black and white film. They're not going to see your old brown beer bottles no matter how many you hang from your bottle tree or how loudly you scream, "Be gone!" and throw lit matches around the yard.

Try to avoid looking inside the bottles on your tree no matter how tempted you are to take a peek at what kinds of primordial devas you've captured. Remember, glass (especially blue glass) reflects light within itself infinitely so that spirits may wander within one small bottle for all eternity. Severe eye strain may result from looking inside spirit bottles and lead to delusions of grandeur, drowning, flying, falling and/or unexplained burning smells.

Additionally, do not be tempted to fill spirit bottles with water and drink (or use to serve iced tea to guests). Unpleasant side effects may include possession, speaking in tongues, visions of fire, visions of ice, unwanted levitations, discovery of secret passageways, embarrassing somnambulism, solicitation at crossroads by demons.

Oh, what a restful sleep may overtake you once you no longer fear being lured into the underworld by devouring sirens. Most people find they begin to look 30-40 years younger after only a few weeks demon-free. This could be your summer to turn heads!

Xo Rennie



APRIL, 2005
Dear Diary, I have made every sensible attempt to contact you via bus station telephone as well as encrypted e-mails masquerading as appeals from the Nigerian government. I feel I have no recourse but to write you directly and announce:

Alas, we must start from the beginning-- several days ago I dropped a raw egg into a jar of water and studied the patterns as the yolk slowly drifted apart. I was much alarmed by what I saw.

I examined my dental records, a recent MRI, and a childhood colonoscopy, but found conflicting messages within the hazy images. I threw chicken bones from a burlap bag. I swung a hatchet down into the kitchen table and took careful note of the pattern of quivering in the handle. I looked at the swirls of hair left by my cat upon the bedspread. It was simply not possible that all this hair had come from my cat!

I approached a young girl on the street and asked her to hold my key chain dangling between her first finger and thumb. Her slender fingers trembled and the keys slowly began to swing in a wide counter clockwise circle. I made a dowsing rod from a coat hanger and carefully marked where the rod began to point downward as I slowly walked about my neighbor s yard in the wee hours before dawn. I drew the alphabet in the dirt behind the grade school and spun round until I fell over onto one of the letters. There was much blood.

I walked into the local police department and demanded to be handcuffed. I set my shirt afire. I opened the telephone book at random. I called strangers and asked them to guess what was in my mouth. I took a jar full of beetles down to the cemetery and observed how they gravitated towards the graves of  murder victims. I examined the bubbles left by drunks urinating in my flower pots. For the love of all nameless gods, I beg you to cease and desist. Your ever-faithful servant...

Xo Rennie




FEBRUARY, 2005

DEAR FARAWAY FRIEND of the thing we call, The Handsome Family.” I must speak to you of two matters of vital importance. Please find herein announced:
I can no longer see my hands.
Upcoming tour dates.

I AWOKE to find myself buried up to my neck in the neighborhood sandbox. That evening I crept down the stairs in my pink nightgown. On the sixth step I found a small bundle of dried roses. I brought them to my nose and smelled a dark, sulfuric smell-- terrifying yet utterly familiar.

FEBRUARY, 2005-- Folk songs, Occult messages....
We're going to be doing 3 concerts featuring songs from Harry Smith s Anthology of American Folk Music. Harry Smith was an alchemist, a collector of found paper airplanes, a recorder of dying breaths, a numerologist, and a penniless drunk. He also is the dark lord who compiled our book of spells. Please join us to pay tribute to his majesty.

FEB. 22, 8pm SHARP at The Hideout, Chicago, IL

FEB. 26, 8pm The Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland.
Here's the entire schedule for that night:
Roel Bentz van den Berg (big hall, introduction): 20.00 c 20.20
The Handsome Family (big hall): 20.20 c 21.00
Rani Singh (small hall, multi-media presentation): 21.00-21.40
Meindert Talma & the Negroes (big hall): 21.40-22.20
Born Heller (small hall): 22.20-23.00
David Eugene Edwards (big hall): 23.00-23.40

Feb. 28, HANDELSBEURS - FOYER, KOUTER 29, GENT, BELGIUM--
We ll probably play some of our own songs on this night.
Further info. at: www.handelsbeurs.be or 0032/(0) 9 265 91 65

I AWOKE to find myself standing on the roof of our house. Plates and glasses flew off the breakfast table. Unexplained fires flared up in the family room. I no longer ventured into the basement. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the shadow of a man in a trench coat running down the hallway towards the guest bathroom. I saw him againt-a shadow sitting up briefly in the backseat of my car as I drove to my volunteer work at the hospital. His name was Mr. Nobody. I saw it written in my rearview mirror when it suddenly fogged up as I drove past the sea.

APRIL, 2005: "The Future of Folk Music"
April 22, High Noon, Madison, Wisconsin. A show sponsored by the UW Center for Humanities.

I AWOKE to find a small glass bowl placed over my mouth and nose. Mr. Nobody was trying to steal my breath. He began to take a more solid form. I felt fingers circling my throat as I sat and watched my afternoon TV shows. I saw a fleeting figure run towards the basement door after the sewing machine pinned me to the floor. 

Somehow, the more he took from me, the better I felt. I could control a swarm of ants simply by waving my hands before them. Plants in our garden began to grow away from my bedroom window as if frightened by the powerful light emanating from me as I slept. Sometimes my body temperature rose to almost unendurable heat and blood trickled from my fingertips. I had uncontrollable fits of laughter that lasted for hours and left me weak and dehydrated.

JULY, 2005
July 8 and 9-- Winnipeg Folk Festival, Winnipeg, Canada. We ll be doing a concert and a few workshops.

Also in Julytwe may have some shows in Europe. More information in coming days.

I AWOKE and found that my hands had become grey, almost colorless. When I held them up to the light of the window I was momentarily shocked to find that I could see right through my hands to the sky. I could hear Mr. Nobody downstairs laughing and joking with someone else-- a voice I didn't recognize, gruff like an animal trying to imitate human speech. I listened to the laughter and the clank of coffee cups and the bell of the toaster dinging as new, soft-brown toast rose up from the burning orange coils. I climbed out my window and into the air.

A huge THANKS to everyone in AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND who made our recent trip down under such a wonderful experience. Xo Rennie




SEPTEMBER, 2004

CURRENT NEWS:

IRELAND-- Other Voices” TV show airs our performance on Oct. 8 on RTE at 11:45pm.

USA--OCTOBER 23: RELEASE OF "THE ROSE AND THE BRIAR: DEATH, LOVE & LIBERTY IN THE AMERICAN BALLAD," edited by SEAN WILENTZ AND GREIL MARCUS, PUBLISHED BY W. W. NORTON-- A collection of essays (including one about the song "Pretty Polly" by Rennie Sparks of The Handsome Family), short stories, a comic strip, and art project on American ballads traditional and modern, from "Babara Allen" to "Nebraska." Also to be released at the same time is a companion CD, "The Rose & the Briar" (Sony) featuring "Blackwatertown," a new ballad with lyrics by Paul Muldoon (winner of 2003 Pulitizer Prize for poetry) with music by The Handsome Family.

CURRENT DELUSIONS...Sleep studies at THE HANDSOME FAMILY Laboratory are progressing smoothly thanks to generous anonymous donations and several death threats. In the last month I have awoken only once to briefly check the smoke detectors in the guest bathroom. They had been tampered with, just as I suspected... In any case, we are pleased to bring you several tips on slipping below the dream waters, and an unfortunate display of TOUR DATES as follows:

A small blue bead wound into hair at nape of neck (may also ward off witches) inspires delightful dreams of dancing snakes in pure white tubs of milk.
 
Horse skulls hung in a tree outside bedroom window may attract dogs and induce sleepwalking, but also offer several hours of dreamless sleep. Works best in a rainstorm and/or near an airport.

A dirty plate held over the face for two to three hours can bring a floating, oceanic feeling as well as long, untroubled sleep. Some screams upon awaking are perfectly normal.


One pound old bacon, cut small, roasted well, add handful of fish worms, one gill oats, three spoonfuls salt. Roast until black then strain through towel, add brandy, vinegar, boy s urine. Rub on leg crosswise on the third, sixth and ninth day after new moon. Foolproof! Also helpful in cases of dropsy, neuralgia, distemper, ague, croup, and lazy eye as well as scarlet fever, yellow fever, brain fever, blood fever and snow blindness.
 
Forty seven peach stones eaten every morning for three weeks or until symptoms disappear.
 
Walk directly north out of the front window of your house. Pick up the first white rock you see. Walk backwards with rock towards home. Use care in crossing intersections. Put rock under pillow. SPEAK OF THIS TO NO ONE! Repeat as necessary.

Sprinkle salt in someone else s shoes and/or place glass of water on head. Wait for boil.

Sweet dreams, friends. I must return to the lab. I hear glass breaking...

ox Rennie


AUGUST, 2004

Fair Tidings of MYSTERIOUS SHOES...

 

Over the years I have spotted many single shoes lying on the side

of the road as well as pairs of shoes thrown up over telephone lines. Only

yesterday I spotted a single man's beach sandal (a flip-flop” in

common parlance) lying in a puddle by the dog park.

Once I came back from a laundromat and found a child's plastic

rain boot tangled in with my clean underwear.

Last fall someone placed a pair of black men's sneakers on the back fence of my yard. They were perched neatly up there as if someone planned to come back for them, however several months went by and the sneakers remained there untouched.

I kept a careful watch on the shoes from my bedroom window. Sometimes I held a newspaper in my hands so that it would appear that I was reading. Finally, one afternoon, I made my way across the weeds. Inside the right shoe a black widow spider had spun a small web.

 

I could see the spider in there curled up under the tongue of the shoe,waiting. Inside the other shoe there was a cigarette lighter with a picture of a small dog wearing a Santa Claus hat. The lighter did not work.

 I became overwhelmed with the sensation of danger and carefully retraced my steps across the yard. I stood in my back doorway and pretended to talk on the phone. In a loud voice I said things like, "No, I m sorry, but I can t hold!"

I tossed and turned all night. I do not remember falling asleep, but opening my eyes I discovered that it was well past noon. I remembered a strange dream. An old woman sat on my chest and slapped my face with a pair of white ballet slippers.

I tried to read a book--a romance in which a young country girl rides a wild horse into the sea. I was distracted by the ticking of my wristwatch. I  dressed and went outside. I walked in exaggerated movements across  the yard, swinging my arms and legs like a marionette and turning my head  from side to side in a mechanical fashion. The sneakers were gone from the back fence.

I crouched down behind a small thorn bush and waited. Several hours passed. Darkness had fallen so completely that I could not see my own hands flapping in front of my face. The insects around me grew silent each time I moved. I felt insulted. At dawn I looked down at my hands and did not recognize them. I was wearing several turquoise rings that I found garish, but could not remove.

I climbed over the fence and ran down the alley. The streets were empty. I was wearing a pair of black, patent leather loafers that were several sizes too small. My heels hung over the backs, scraping painfully along the ground. I took off the left loafer and placed it carefully underneath a half-eaten stick of beef jerky near my neighbor's mailbox. I threw the right loafer into the public swimming pool. When I returned to my yard, my entire back fence had been removed.

ox RENNIE

 

APRIL 2004:

--Look for us in "Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus" an independent film about American music featuring also Jim White, Johnny Dowd, Sixteen Horsepower, Melissa Swingle among others. Further info:

searchingforthewrongeyedjesus.com


---Look for our tour diary in Magnet Magazine

(#63, May/June 2004)
www.magnetmagazine.com

MARCH 2004:

 

GREETINGS SURFACE-DWELLER!

This dank and barnacled letter washes up from the depths of the Handsome Family deep sea laboratory where no light has shone for many hundreds of years and is now only a tale told to scare children.

HEREIN FIND- the OCTOPUS (8-armed trickster), HANDSOME FAMILY NEWS (new tee shirt), and a salute to XERXES (who ordered his men to whip the sea).

Octopus blood is pale blue and is pumped by three hearts. There is evidence that the octopus thinks not only with its small brain, but with clusters of nerves found in each arm, thus we find a creature far more intelligent than once supposed. These crafty invertebrates dig clams, slither into fish holds and have the nerve to swipe salmon from the talons of bald eagles. The octopus may also wave its arms in rhythmic patterns that attract and immobilize fish. Fishermen off the coast of Washington report seeing hundreds of small fish frozen in the water as if hypnotized by a passing giant Pacific octopus. One fisherman said, "I felt it myself. They had to tie me to the mast to keep me from throwing myself overboard."

The octopus can travel by crawling or by "jet propulsion"-- forcing water rapidly out of the head-like mantle through a tube known as the siphon. Octopus, like squid, can squirt ink when startled or upset. The small red octopus likes to live in beer bottles. The Atlantic green octopus prefers children's shoes.

Octopuses in captivity will invert their bodies, exposing their suckers upwards- much like a human panhandler- when they want food. If it isn't delivered, they'll swim back and forth in their tanks, turning red. Octopuses change their color seemingly to reflect their mood: usually red indicates 'anger' and white denotes 'fear.' There are exceptions. For example, the beautiful brown and white coloration of Octopus Horridus is believed to mimic the faint patterns of starlight reflected on the ocean's floor.

Captive octopus sometimes hold their breath, crawl out of their tank and go after the fish in other tanks. Some captive octopuses lie in ambush and spit in their keepers' faces. Others dismantle pumps and block drains, causing costly floods. A woman who kept an octopus named Crazy Arms in a small tank in her living room awoke one evening to find her beloved pet gone. She followed a faint wet trail that led out of her apartment and several miles across dark streets, but finally lost the trail at sunrise. "Sometimes I see him in my dreams," the woman told interviewers. "He's flying through the air, high up in the clouds. He looks happy."

OTHER BITS:
Have you visited our merchandise page at www.handsomefamily.com ?
Don't be frightened. We can't actually look at you through your computer screen when you visit our site even though it may feel this way.

Merchandise News:
We have a NEW T-SHIRT (teeny girl size to XXL) depicting the missing octopus Crazy Arms. Why not invite him to float upon your chest? Warning. Do not stare directly at tentacles for more than a few seconds at a time. May induce sleepwalking.

We have a few of the old shirt (GIRL W/GUN) left, too.

We should have some more of the European compilation CD called "Down in the Valley" some time in the next month or two.
--------------+++++++++++--------------+++++++++++--------------+++++++++++--------------
XERXES VS. THE HATEFUL SEA

...They then began to build bridges across the Hellespont river, the Phoenicians building one of ropes made from flax, and the Egyptians building a second one out of papyrus. From Abydos to the opposite shore it is a distance of almost two-thirds of a mile. But no sooner had the strait been bridged than a great storm came on and cut apart and scattered all their work.

Xerxes flew into a rage at this, and he commanded that the Hellespont be struck with three hundred strokes of the whip and that a pair of foot-chains be thrown into the sea. He also commanded the scourgers to speak outlandish and arrogant words:

"You hateful water, our master lays his judgement on you thus, for you have unjustly punished him even though he's done you no wrong! Xerxes the king will pass over you, whether you wish it or not! It is fitting that no man offer you sacrifices, for you are a muddy and salty river!"

In these ways Xerxes commanded that the sea be punished and also that the heads be severed from all those who directed the bridging of the Hellespont.

From The Histories of Herodotus: Xerxes at the Hellespont

That's all I have to say for now. Please feel free to e-mail complaints, queries, fears etc. ox Rennie



August, 2003:

Big Howdy Pilgrim from Handsome Family Forest--a waste and howling wilderness, hideous thickets of eternal night where devils dance in puddles of blood.

TODAY'S TOP STORY:
After many unspeakable rituals made in worship to he-who's-name-may-not-be-uttered we are pleased to announce that our new CD, "Singing Bones" will be released worldwide in October. This sound recording will soon be available for purchase (check back to our website www.handsomefamily.com in October) Want to see us in the flesh? Take a glance at our tour schedule and gather ye rotten vegetables while ye may.

WEEKEND CHEF: Thousand Year Old Eggs
(serves 12)
2 cups tea, very strong black
1/3 cup salt
2 cups ashes of pine wood
2 cups ashes of charcoal
2 cups fireplace ashes
1 cup lime powder ( available at garden or hardware stores)
12 duck eggs, fresh

Combine tea, salt, ashes and lime. Using about 1/2 cup per egg,
thickly coat each egg completely with this clay-like mixture. Line
a large crock with garden soil and carefully lay coated eggs on
top. Cover with more soil and place crock in a cool dark place.
Allow to cure for 100 days. To remove coating, scrape eggs and
rinse under running water to clean thoroughly. Crack lightly and
remove shells. The white of the egg will appear a grayish, translucent
color and have a gelatinous texture. The yolk, when sliced, will
be a grayish-green color. Cut into wedges and serve.

THE MEDICINE CHEST: Backyard Pyramid.
Feeling rundown? A backyard pyramid may get your aura vibrating again. Make sure it's built to the correct proportion and angle (52.606º ). Food kept under the pyramid will stay fresh for two to three times longer than uncovered. The pyramid will dehydrate and mummify things, but it will not permit decay or mold to grow. Kirlian photographs show human auras become significantly brighter after only15-minute pyramid exposure. Brine shrimp (sea monkeys to you) usually live 6 to 7 weeks; but under the pyramids they have been kept alive for over a year. Underneath pyramids theta and alpha brain waves are increased. Prolonged meditation under a pyramid may impart a feeling of weightlessness; a time distortion (both of speeding up and slowing down), and very graphic dreams in vivid color.
.
ABOUT TOWN: The Handsome Family are preparing to leave the house to begin touring in support of the new record. This involves conquering several phobias including but not limited to: fear of water, tiny things, large dogs, small dogs, dogs with ESP, invisible dogs, shape-shifting dogs, dogs who look like spiders, dogs who dance on two legs, dogs pretending to be humans pretending to be dogs, spiders. Pray that we may we have the front door cracked open by Oct. 6 when our new CD is released.

 

May 2003:

"I opened my eyes, and the before sun-lit room was now wrapped in outer darkness. Instantly I felt a shock running through all my frame; nothing was to be seen, and nothing was to be heard; but a supernatural hand seemed placed in mine. My arm hung over the counterpane, and the nameless, unimaginable, silent form or phantom, to which the hand belonged, seemed closely seated by my bedside. For what seemed ages piled on ages, I lay there, frozen with the most awful fears, not daring to drag away my hand; yet ever thinking that if I could but stir it one single inch, the horrid spell would be broken. I knew not how this consciousness at last glided away from me; but waking in the morning, I shudderingly remembered it all, and for days and weeks and months afterwards I lost myself in confounding attempts to explain the mystery. Nay, to this very hour I often puzzle myself with it."

---The Handsome Family's favorite paragraph from "Moby Dick"

Greetings friends old and new from the hallowed halls of Handsome Family Mountain. Today I waited for Planet X to appear in the sky and block out the sun entirely. The birds ignored my bird bath. The tomato plant wilted. Only the fire ants rush to greet me when I leave the house.

Thanks to everyone in England, Scotland, Holland, and Germany who came to see us play on our recent travels. Thanks to American Airlines for not charging us too much extra for all them suitcases even though drinks are now $5 each. We're home again, hacking away at the weeds and finishing up our new CD, "Singing Bones."

Other news of note: we are proud to have a lovely cover of our song, "Weightless Again" on Cerys Matthew's (ex-Catatonia) new CD. Also a breathtaking version of "Don't be Scared" on the new CD from Mr. Andrew Bird.

October, 2002, Autumn Ramblings:

 

THE HANDSOME FAMILY announce......

Finally Proof That Wolves Are Good Babysitters:
"In all my travels, the only time I ever slept deeply was when I was with wolvesThe days with my wolf family multiplied. I have no idea how many months I spent with them but I wanted it to last forever­it was far better than returning to the world of my own kind. Today, though
most memories of my long journey are etched in tones of gray, the time spent with the wolves is drenched in color. Those were the most beautiful days I had ever experienced."
So wrote Misha Defonseca, a Jewish orphan who, from the ages of 7 to 11, wandered through occupied Europe during World War II, living on wild berries, raw meat and food stolen from farmhouses, and occasionally teaming up with wolves.
----From Paul Sieveking's article on Feral Children in The Fortean Times

New Conspiracy Uncovered:
Blue Jays are burying nuts in my yard.

New Release:
"Nothing Left to Lose: A Tribute to Kris Kristofferson"
A great compilation of songs/musicians newly released from Incidental Music.

Track Listing:
1. HANDSOME FAMILY: "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down"
2. SOULED AMERICAN: "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends"
3. CALIFONE: "Border Lord"
4. DIANA DARBY: "Jesus Was a Capricorn"
5. REBECCA GATES W/ CALIFONE: "Nobody Wins"
6. CALEXICO: "Casey's Last Ride"
7. COURT & SPARK: "For the Good Times"
8. ZMRZLINA W/ MILK CHOPPER: "Me & Bobby McGee"
9. RADAR BROTHERS: "Help Me Make it Through the Night"
10. DEANNA VARAGONA: "Burden of Freedom"
11. CREEPER LAGOON: "Why Me"
12. GRANFALOON BUS: "Kiss the World Goodbye"
13. VIRGIL SHAW: "Just the Other Side of Nowhere"
14. RICHARD BUCKNER: "Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)"
15. CROOKED JADES: "Shipwrecked in the Eighties"
16. HOWE GELB: "The Pilgrim (Chapter 33)"
17. GRANDADDY: "Best of All Possible Worlds"

Sound good? To order this CD or read more details, go to:
www.incidentalmusic.com/artists/various/nothing_left_to_lose/index.html

New Autumn Drink:
vodka with tea bag

New Autumn Fashion:
cat whisker tiara



August, 2002, automatic writing:

Since March 1977 I have been subjected to continual anonymous surveillance and assaults whose impact has devastated me. Between September 1977 and March 1978 I was for the first time made aware that these were being accomplished by use of two-way mental telepathy and its physical and emotional equivalents. I have been systematically deprived of both capacity and opportunity to exercise the rights which flow from my U.S. citizenship as well as the fundamental rights inherent in mere human existence. I assess my situation as substantially worse than it would be under formally instituted imprisonment and forfeiture of civil rights as administered under any legal system that has existed in recorded history. If the telepathic cannibalism which has victimized me has existed for long then my so-called education was in reality a systematic implantation of delusions deliberately designed to injure me. My existence for more than two years must be characterized as subjected to hostile and total external control to an extent unrecorded in the literature of civilization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June, 2002

We were recently on Later with Jools Holland. It was the show that the Hives, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Brian Ferry were on. It was kind of scary, but don't we look like we feel cool instead of petrified? Don of Circuit Magazine took this picture of us. Nice work.

CURRENT FEARS:

1. Mysterious tenth planet will crash into Earth in 2013 knocking us out of
our orbit and causing 300 mph winds to carry me off into the vacuum of outer
space.
2. A huge civilisation of cockroaches is building a doomsday machine in the
crawl space under my bed.
3. If I believe in ghosts (or even say the word "ghost" inside my head) this
gives ghosts the substance and the strength to drag me off into the boarded
up backroom of our cellar. People will hear me scream, but they will all
say, "Gee that fan needs some grease."
4. I will be swallowed by a sinkhole while driving on a deserted road, but I
will not be killed by the fall. Instead I will slowly suffocate inside my
car with only FM radio for company. Last thing heard will be the afternoon
zoo crew making fart noises.
5. All the vegetables in my refrigerator are screaming in agony, but the
sound is on a frequency that I am unable to hear.
7. Cats really don't want to have a tea party with me in formal wear.

March, 2002

Greetings friend from Albuquerque, New Mexico (home of the Great American Manson look-alike contest!). Enclosed you will find our latest tour schedule and some other handy household hints. Happy spring. ox Rennie

FUN HOME PROJECTS!

Make a ghost tape!
It's easy. Simply place a blank cassette into your recorder and press 'record'. Turn out lights and ask the darkness, "Is there anyone out there who would like to speak to me?" Sit quietly until tape recorder clicks off. Now just rewind the tape and listen. Listen carefully! Is that your dead grandmother telling you where the government bonds are hidden? Or, could it be Jack the Ripper singing "Silent Night"? Too many ghosts on your tape? Simply fill your shoes with salt to disperse unwanted presences.

Learn to understand animals!
Simply bury yourself underground for one full month with a small breathing tube in your mouth leading up to the surface. No cheating! Try to focus on white light only. Most yogis who accomplish this discover upon returning to the surface world they are now able understand everything from the flick of a lizard's tongue to the growl of a rabid dog. Caution: unpleasant side effects such as flowers growing from abdomen and unexpected levitations have been noted.

TODAY'S CHUCKLE:
"I heard the most beautiful music!" exclaimed Andrew Jackson upon waking from the chloroform after having his leg sawed off.

NEW RELEASES!
On April 1 The Handsome Family will be self-releasing a CD called "Smothered and Covered" which includes various songs of ours that never found a way onto a CD as well as some covers that have appeared on some compilation CDs and a few very intimate demos of songs we have already released. We are putting this CD out ourselves so it will NOT be distributed (well except to a few nice people) and so will mostly only be available from our website or at our live shows.

Also in the coming months we should have a live CD released by the Digital Club Network. More details to come.

OTHER MERCHANDISE:
We now have XXL shirts for our bigger-boned fans. Due to extra material used and late hours for the barefoot children in our sweat shops, these shirts cost $1 more than the S-M-L-XL shirts.

ALSO, if you're a guitar amp collector, please check out the link from our merchandise page to look at Greg Hansen's homemade amplifers. He's a friend of ours and his amplifers are really unique.

All the above-referenced crap can be found at www.handsomefamily.com

 

 

 

 

December, 2001

Here's a Tour Diary from our latest European Tour:

Handsome Family Tour: Oct. 29 through Dec. 7, 2001
IRISH SHOWS: Pinelodge, Myrtleville; The Kings Bar, Waterford; The Spirit Store, Dundalk; Dolan's Warehouse, Limerick; Whelan's, Dublin; Auntie Annie's, Belfast
PLUS: A quick commute to London and back for a show at the Barbican.
Folks in Ireland laugh non-stop at our shows, even at the most depressing songs about extinct birds, suicides, tidal waves and the suffering of small animals. I feel sane here. We arrive at a radio station in Cork City to do a live performance when suddenly we are locked in the building, quarantined for hours because of an anthrax scare. The army finally negotiates a special tank down the narrow streetÐ-a tank designed to take away bombs not anthrax. Luckily, the anthrax envelope turned out to be filled with bits of a broken jewel case from some band's demo CD. No anthrax in Cork today. The radio station receptionist was angry. "In Dublin, they bought them some rubber gloves to open the mail with! I had to buy my own!"
We drove back from Limerick to Dublin after the show to take an early flight to London. There is total darkness between Limerick and Dublin as we pass through all the sleeping towns. I am suddenly terrified being in a country without 24 hour restaurants. Finally on the outskirts of Dublin we find a man selling petrol from a bullet-proof cage. He sells us a coronation chicken sandwich and a tank of gas. Three hours sleep then off to London.
THE BARBICAN:
Howe Gelb walks in our dressing room and immediately dismantles the pristine, shiny Steinway upright piano. By the end of the night, people are sticking spoons and fingers into the piano strings trying to play "Cold as Ice" without touching the piano keys. I jokingly asked the Barbican staff if someone could carry me on stage and the burliest of them steps forward smiling. This was our first show before 2,000 people and Brett broke a string on the second song. Stalling for time while Brett looked for a new string, I told the crowd what happened on the plane ride over: the entire plane thrown into panic when a man started fighting with a young blonde girl in the aisle. They are pushing and shoving each other and the stewardesses run towards them. I am sitting frozen in fear, waiting for the box-cutter to appear. But, no death on that flight. Turned out he was just a drunk who stuck his hands between the girl's legs while she was sleeping. The whole plane celebrated-"Just a pervert! Not a terrorist!" We ignored the poor blonde girl sobbing in the corner, but the cops were waiting at Heathrow to drag the perv away. Two weeks later I get a call from his lawyer who was at the Barbican show (!), asking me to give evidence in his case. Small fucking world.
BACK TO IRELAND:
We were so tired the next day, we spent two hours searching for our car keys in the airport parking lot, even consulting the airport police, before I found the keys in my purse. Very tired at Whelan's and people were talking loudly while we were playing. Brett sang "I Know you are there...because I can hear you fucking talking!" After we played we needed security to help us get our stuff out as the bar had turned immediately into a dance club where people were dancing so hard they were bruising each other. The ride to Belfast was delayed by a dog running across the road far up in Northern Ireland causing the entire Irish highway "system" to grind to a halt. I ate a deep-fried egg mayonnaise sandwich served in a pool of butter, but still felt so tired my face was numb. People in Belfast seem to find my jokes funnier now that my face is a frozen mask. Next morning I found a lovely deer plaque in a charity shop.
ENGLAND: Ceol Castle, Birmingham; The Charlotte, Leicester; The Tower, Winchester; The Band Room, Farndale; University of Manchester; Pavilion Theatre, Brighton; Boardwalk, Sheffield; Fibbers, York; Jumpin' Hot Club (at the Live Theatre), Newcastle
There's a dog that lives in a pen behind the bar in Birmingham who howl-sings along with the high notes. I am in love, but the dog is well-trained and I can not coax him into the car the next morning. The Band Room is way up on the Yorkshire Moors. When I joke that the government has chosen tonight to begin releasing wolves back into the moors, no one laughs. The bathrooms are in a bunker across the windy parking lot and glowing eyes peer from the darkness as I walk. Not wolves, just curious sheep. In Manchester we were so tired we stopped at the first hotel we saw. Turned out to be the most expensive Marriot in the world and anytime we touched anything in the room another bill was slipped under the door. A little taste of America's glory.
Down at the Pavillion Theatre in Brighton, we are joined by Andrew Bird and Nora O'Connor, who prove to be a huge hit with the crowds and a great help to us over the course of this long tour. They pull our fat out of the fire many a night by joining us onstage and providing energy and impeccable musicianship. Next day, we head back up north again. At the Jumpin Hot Club, Brett and I have a big fight over dinner. We are so tired and sick of each other we are reduced to silent glaring, can't even muster up the energy to insult each other. We hobble onstage. A man screams "Shut up" while I'm talking between songs and I invited him on stage to scream "Shut up" at me while I gave him a blow job. That shuts him up, or so I think. Then later the poor man e-mails to say he was telling some girls next to him to shut up because his favorite band (us) was playing. Oh well, still spreading sunshine.
SCOTLAND: Q.M.U., Edinburgh; The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen; Arches, Glasgow
Students are playing pool while we are playing and so I have to remind myself that the cheers sporadically erupting are based on good shots on the pool table and not our great songs. After the show, we talk sheep with locals. The Scottish have the best sheep stories. Tonight someone tells us about the farmer who had a sheep that fell into a ravine, but the farmer couldn't bring himself to kill it even though its skull was cracked, even though it was his business to kill sheep. He kept bringing the sheep food and kept it alive for years,though it couldn't walk and birds had pecked out its eyes. Ah Scotland, your dark beauty is only heightened by the Absinthe for sale at Tesco.
ENGLAND, WALES, THEN ENGLAND AGAIN: Telford's Warehouse, Chester; The Chattery Restaurant, Swansea; Blackheath Halls, London
Telford's is the night of my birthday. I am showered with dead flowers and champagne. I am tempted to lie and say it's my birthday the next night as well. But, Swansea is its own joy. The Chattery is the local chippy and it is a strange thrill to go from playing for 2,000 at the Barbican to playing in a restaurant in Swansea. It's nice to be able to see everyone's faces as we play. We are exhausted again by the time we get to Blackheath. It's thanksgiving night and we order nachos and cheese sandwiches from room service to celebrate. If you had blindfolded me and then forced me to eat the nachos I would have guessed kidney pie, but still it does alleviate some of the homesickness.
HOLLAND: The Paradiso, Amsterdam; 013 Tilburg
We pay $100 for a garage to take our rental car off our hands in Amsterdam. It's that awful to drive there. Bicycles, walkers, trams, taxis... But, out of the car, Amsterdam is great. The best falafel in the world. Strange stores full of Indonesian drums and whistles. Mongolian throat singers playing in the tunnel under the Rijksmuseum. It's comforting to know that, if need be, I can get some help killing myself here. Maybe get stoned and hire a prostitute to do it? We leave all our equipment in the car in Tilburg because I realize that we are probably the most dangerous people in this town.
GERMANY AND SWITZERLAND: Knust, Hamburg; Golgatha, Berlin; Star Club, Dresden; Club 2, Munich; Rittergarten, Tuttlingen; El Lokal, Zurich
An endless journey to Hamburg consisting of missed trains and huge staircases to lug gear up. Finally arrive. We are here as support for Oh Susanna. She likes the same morbid folk songs we do so we get along well. We make no money in Germany and what we do make is immediately taken back to pay foreign artist taxes, but we enjoy many delicious meals with mysterious names that always turn out later when translated to be something like creamed kitten tails on a bed of deer eyelashes. We get separated for two hours in the Zurich airport when I get off the elevator at a different floor than Brett. Much hilarity (actually sobbing) ensues. Back in London, my hair has turned white and I have acquired the limping gait and pallor of the undead.
ENGLAND, AGAIN: ULU, London; 100 Club, London
ULU actually goes well even though by all rights we should be in the hospital by now. Someone gives me a bag of chocolate spiders. Next morning at the 100 club we play "Girl with the Faraway Eyes" to celebrate Uncut Magazine's Rolling Stones issue. It is a private party with lots of drink and tiny sandwiches. By noon, I have achieved the warm and happy drunk that comes with knowing you are going home soon.

September, 2001

Hello to all who have ever uttered the name "Handsome Family" even while under heavy sedation.

Today I found a tooth in the back yard. Well, actually a trail of teeth leading, oddly-enough, right back to my own gaping mouth! In any case, tonight I attempt to sleep with the lights off and my "Soothing Seascapes" CD at half volume. I am unique and I have a lot to offer the world. I am unique and I have a lot to offer the world. I am unique and I have a lot to offer the world.

Tomorrow I start my "19th-Century American Mountain Man" diet!

BREAKFAST:
When caught by winter blizzards or while on unexpectedly long desert marches, many a mountain man escaped starvation only by bleeding his horse and drinking the blood or cutting off and eating the ears of his mule.

LUNCH:
One old mountain man recalled, "I have held my hands in an ant-hill until they were covered with ants, then greedily licked them off. I have taken the soles of my moccasins, crisped them in the fire, and eaten them. We used to throw black crickets into a kettle of boiling water, wait until the kicking stopped then eat.

DINNER:
In the spring when the first fat cow was killed, the intestines were thrown across the fire until puffed with heat and fat then coiled on a blanket and gulped down without chewing. On such an occasion two men would start on the opposite ends of a pile of intestines and work their way toward the middle, each eating faster and faster to get his share, and shouting to the other to "FEED FAIR!"

SNACK:
Roasted beaver tail with handful of wild berries. Watch for grizzlies.

NEWS

NEW CD: Yes, finally, The Handsome Family has a new CD which will arrive in the stores on September 24th. It's called "Twilight." I hope you like it and I don't have to go back to stealing hubcaps.

MOVE: We finally made the big leap and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We bought us a little adobe hacienda. "Why the hell??", you might ask. Well, it's dirt cheap (even the dirt is cheap) and it's home to the Sparks clan. Brett's brother and Mom and Dad live out here or at least that's who he claims these people are. Just wait till you see the new band photos shot in the desert. Brett has built a studio and has more work than he can shake a stick at. I spend most of my free time wandering the foothills in search of nicely bleached ribcages.

WEBSITE (www.handsomefamily.com): We can now accept credit cards on the merchandise page of our website. This is good for all you impulse buyers as well as all you foreigners who can now just click a button and not have to go get a wad of American dollars to send us if you want one of our fine products. Also, we have a new, professionally rendered tee shirt design. We recommend perusing our merchandise while drunk.

NEW TOUR: We will be touring and touring and touring now that the new CD is done. In preparation I have just purchased a new toothbrush cover. See Shows page for current schedule. ox Rennie

PS. If you would like an e-mail of our semi-frequent newsletter as well as tour information sent to you, then e-mail us and tell us so.

 

March, 2001

Hi everyone, here's the latest news from the Handsome Family Social Club:

We finally had enough of the cold and the wind and the traffic and the cost of living and have decided to move away from Chicago. On June 7 we're pulling the moving van out and heading to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Below you will see some of the information that helped us come to this decision.

Chicago:
children in pajamas abandoned in parking lots
Albuquerque:
packs of stray dogs run through empty neighborhoods
Chicago:
crumbling buildings and falling icicles crush in skulls of downtown pedestrians
Albuquerque:
all houses constructed of mud, straw and old cow bones
Chicago:
emergency rooms full of handcuffed men getting skull fracture X-rayed
Albuquerque:
emergency rooms full of handcuffed men getting skull fracture X-rayed
Chicago:
uniformly grey sky gives consistancy to the seasons and suicide rates
Albuquerque:
constant deep blue sky above mud horizon causes desert madness in which people paint all their possessions turquoise and begin to eat dirt

We will sorely miss all our Chicago friends, but, as you can see, the choice is obvious. I wish we could move tonight so I wouldn't have to attempt to clean up this abandoned warehouse we're living in. (Note to self: reset rat traps). Anyway, in the fall of 2001, when our next CD is released we should be touring everywhere we can think of, including back to Chicago.

xo Rennie

PS. If you would like an e-mail of our semi-frequent newsletter as well as tour information sent to you, then e-mail us and tell us so.

 

 

 

 

 

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