Videos by American Songwriter
We live in a world where there is so much music being released at all times than only a tiny percentage of it receives decent exposure. As a result, there are wonderful, compelling songs all over the landscape just begging for a larger audience, needing a little push to get their proper due.
Case in point: “Far From Any Road,” a haunting, unheralded song from the Handsome Family, a haunting unheralded act. Comprised of the husband and wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks, The Handsome Family has been releasing albums since 1995, with “Far From Any Road” a highlight from their 2003 record Singing Bones.
In all likelihood, the song would have stayed nothing more than a forgotten favorite to anything but the group’s most diehard fans were it not for some kind of break. Luckily T Bone Burnett, musical supervisor for HBO’s hyped drama True Detective, chose it for the show’s opening credits. Suddenly, fans tuning in to see the dark escapades of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson were turned onto this moody, mysterious, and mesmerizing song that seemed eerily in tune with the show’s themes.
Because of that synchronicity, many fans have been fooled into thinking that the song was written specifically for the show. “People keep asking us how we managed to write such a perfect song to open True Detective,” says Rennie Sparks, who writes the lyrics for the duo while her husband handles the music. “They complement us on all the various connections to the storyline we’ve managed to include and how perfectly our song emotionally sets the pace for each episode. They think I’m lying when I say that the song was written long before the TV show was a spark of an idea. Maybe time really is a flat circle.”
True Detective might have provided the springboard, but “Far From Any Road” shines no matter the context in which it is heard. The music is filled with insect-like percussion and sultry guitars which hang in the air like distant mirages. Brett Sparks’ booming, ominous voice is the ideal foil for his wife’s dreamy, ethereal sighs. And Rennie’s lyrics evoke a desert world alluring in its beauty yet deadly to all those who get too close.
After trading verses for the entirety of the song, the two distinct voices come together in the final lines in an attempt to transcend the darkness and danger, or at least go down together: “And rise with me forever across the silent sand/And the stars will be your eyes and the wind will be my hands.” It’s spooky and beautiful all at once.
The cynic might complain that “Far From Any Road” by The Handsome Family proves that it takes a little serendipity for even excellent music to break through these days. Maybe in this case it’s best to take the optimistic slant and say that, sometimes, you can’t keep a great song down.