Although recorded in the garage of their Albuquerque home, “Owls” — one of the tracks from Handsome Family’s new album, Wilderness (out May 14) — conjures up images of an empty, old-school bar, where the only sounds are the lonely twang of a honky-tonk piano and the deep rumble of Brett Sparks’ baritone.
“While reading Skymall on a plane some years back,” explains Brett’s wife and bandmate, Rennie Sparks, “I noticed that among the dog beds and foot massagers, they were also selling large statues of ancient Egyptian pharaohs. I wondered what kind of house those statues would look good in. Almost immediately, it came to me: a house full of owls.”
As is probably the case with most songs inspired by Skymall brochures, “Owls” is a peculiar song, one that mixes the sweeping beauty of mid-century country music with the bizarre, off-the-wall anecdotes of American tall tales. The Handsome Family treats the tune reverently, though, with Brett’s vocals channeling Johnny Cash one minute and Tom Waits the next.