Through the Trees

Last updated
Through The Trees
Studio album by
ReleasedApril 6, 1998
Genre Country [1]
Label Carrot Top, Loose Music
Producer Dave Trumfio, Brett Sparks
The Handsome Family chronology
Invisible Hands
Through The Trees
Down in the Valley
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [1]
Christgau's Consumer Guide Five Pointed Star Solid.svg Five Pointed Star Solid.svg Five Pointed Star Solid.svg [2]
Tom Hull – on the Web B+ ( Five Pointed Star Solid.svg Five Pointed Star Solid.svg ) [3]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [4]

Through the Trees is the third full-length album released by The Handsome Family, [5] released in 1998 on Carrot Top Records/Loose Music. The album has received significant critical praise, and is considered one of the band's best works.



Through the Trees was written in the aftermath of Brett Sparks' mid-1990s hospitalization and diagnosis of bipolar disorder. [6] The closing song, "My Ghost", was inspired by Brett's experiences in the psychiatric unit. [7] [8]

The album was recorded in a makeshift warehouse loft space in a run-down part of Chicago, using equipment lent to the band by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, who was a friend and fan of their work. They had met each other through Tweedy's wife Sue Miller, owner of the Chicago club Lounge Ax. Rennie Sparks later told Folk Radio UK in an interview: "Jeff offered to let us borrow a bunch of gear he had but wasn’t using (an ADAT, a Mackie mixer, Lexicon reverb and a fabulous Tube-Tech compressor). This was a huge gift – Jeff gave us more than gear, he gave us time. We returned our rental equipment and slowed our work pace. We were finally recording music without worrying about how much money each hour was costing us. It completely changed how we worked." [9] Tweedy also plays guitar and backing vocals on several songs. [10]


Mojo magazine named it one of the “10 Essential Americana Records Of All Time”. [9] It was praised in the magazine's music encyclopedia The Mojo Collection as "an American gothic country classic: dark twisted, blackly comic tales of death and decay, drink, desperation and dead dogs." [10] UNCUT named it the "Best New Country Album of the Year". [6]

Track listing

All music by Brett Sparks; all lyrics by Rennie Sparks, except as noted.

1."Weightless Again" 3:40
2."My Sister's Tiny Hands" 3:27
3."Stalled" 2:28
4."Where The Birch Trees Lean" 3:22
5."Cathedrals" 3:24
6."Down In The Ground" 2:45
7."The Giant Of Illinois" 3:05
8."Down In The Valley Of Hollow Logs" 3:31
9."I Fell" 4:16
10."The Woman Downstairs" 4:49
11."Last Night I Went Out Walking"Brett Sparks4:26
12."Bury Me Here" 2:46
13."My Ghost"Brett Sparks, Rennie Sparks2:26
Total length:44:25

Personnel [11]

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  1. 1 2 "Through the Trees - The Handsome Family | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic.
  2. "Robert Christgau: CG: Handsome Family".
  3. Hull, Tom (May 10, 2021). "Music Week". Tom Hull – on the Web. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  4. Larkin, Colin, ed. (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. p. 1637. ISBN   978-0-85712-595-8 . Retrieved 2023-06-01.
  5. " :: Handsome Family".
  6. 1 2 Layne, Joslyn "The Handsome Family Biography", Allmusic , Macrovision Corporation
  7. Roberts, Randall (2014-02-27). "'True Detective' music: 10 other great songs by the Handsome Family". Los Angeles Times . Los Angeles . Retrieved 2023-06-01.
  8. Lyrics to "My Ghost", Handsome Family.
  9. 1 2 Gallacher, Alex (2018-02-21). "Video Premiere: The Handsome Family – Weightless Again (+ 20th Anniversary Edition of Through The Trees & Tour)". Folk Radio UK . Retrieved 2023-06-01.
  10. 1 2 Irvin, Jim, ed. (2007). The Mojo Collection: 4th Edition. Canongate Books. p. 647. ISBN   978-1-84767-643-6 . Retrieved 2023-06-01.
  11. cf. Brett & Rennie Sparks (1998): Credits. In Through The Trees [CD booklet]. Chicago: Carrot Top Records.