The Handsome Family, Saturday, September 20, at the Lion's Lair, makes roots music that feels like the sonic equivalent to an Andrew Wyeth painting. There are cracks in the walls, despair on the faces that populate the Chicago duo's simple, rural tableaus. Redemption lies just out of reach, and sadness often prevails, underscored by the plaintive wails of guitars and violins. The Handsome Family's approach to modern country has little to do with the twanging tendencies or revivalism of much of the alt-country crowd, though its music is certainly steeped in the grim tradition of the murder ballad and the high-lonesome narrative. Songwriter Brett Sparks has found a suitably melancholic lyricist in his wife, fiction writer Rennie. The result is a kind of gothic Americana -- rugged, sparse, minimalist and devastating. The band's new release, Twilight, captures that spirit beautifully. A live setting, however, is the best place in which to meet this compelling Family.