Live: The Handsome Family / Daniel Knox

Norwich Arts Centre September 7, 2022

by Sue Cusick

The acoustics in this former church are perfect for Daniel Knox.

According to Rennie, one half of tonight’s headliners, he has a voice that can’t be argued with, and she’s not wrong.

It sounds as though it comes from the depths and, with his keyboard accompaniment, there is an almost operatic feel to it – albeit a dark and twisty one full of angst.

A perfect fit: Daniel Knox (Picture: Sue Cusick)
A perfect fit: Daniel Knox (Picture: Sue Cusick)

He’s a real storyteller, regaling us with anecdotes in between songs, and he is perfectly suited as tonight’s support act.

Just before The Handsome Family come on, I’m told – by someone who says he has seen them “loads” – that Brett doesn’t like his photo being taken, and that he’s a bit grumpy sometimes.

But although the singer announces that he’s feeling “a bit under the weather”, it doesn’t appear to affect his performance, and it just adds to the overall moody charm of the band, their music and the dark lyrics.

His deep, drawling voice is reminiscent of Johnny Cash, and this similarity is felt especially sharply in The Bottomless Hole.

A moody charm: The Handsome Family (Picture: Sue Cusick)
A moody charm: The Handsome Family (Picture: Sue Cusick)

The songs have a folksy feel with a seriously dark edge, but this husband-and-wife team are impossible to pigeonhole.

Rennie teases Brett and tells jokes between songs. She is the comic – the June to his Johnny.

The Handsome Family may have come to many people’s attention when Far From Any Road was used as the theme to True Detective, but they have 30 years of material to draw on, and tonight they give us a taste of their vast range.

Folksy but dark: The Handsome Family (Picture: Sue Cusick)
Folksy but dark: The Handsome Family (Picture: Sue Cusick)

A lot of their songs take folk tales, gothic fiction and the macabre moments of real life as their inspiration.

So Much Wine (Listen to me, Butterfly. There’s only so much wine you can drink in one life. But it will never be enough to save you from the bottom of your glass) speaks volumes about human frailties, and The Bottomless Hole – as deep and dark as the name suggests – could be the plot of a horror movie.

And we also get songs written during the lockdowns – a period which must have been a rich seam of ideas to mine for a duo so finely tuned in to humankind and its deepest fears.

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