The Mastersons: Transient Lullaby
Red House Records – 19 May 2017
When not serving as part of Steve Earle’s band The Dukes, husband and wife duo Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore have their own career as The Mastersons, ploughing their own alt-country and folk furrow. Transient Lullaby, their third album, would seem to address the tensions that a constant life on the road can bring to a relationship, fairly succinctly summed up on the old time country waltzer This Isn’t How It Was Supposed To Go where they harmonise over lines like “instead of basking in the afterglow, love is wilting in the shadows”. Likewise, on the midtempo alt-country pop Don’t Tell Me to Smile, Whitmore’s recounting how “I’ve been shooting daggers on a stage everybody can see” while, on Happy When I’m Movin’, Masterson’s singing that “The time has come for us to part ways.”
However, the fact that they’re here singing about it together is, of course, indicative that they’ve navigated the stormy waters, rocky roads or whatever other metaphor you fancy, acknowledging on the pizzicato rhythm, mandolin strummed Fight that “I don’t want to fight with anyone else but you.” Or, of course, it’s conceptual rather than autobiographical.
Either way, the songs and the performances make for engaging and often hummable listening, their voices marrying in attractive harmony on the likes of jog-along album opener Perfect with its pulsing organ break, the keening Highway 1 and the six-minute midtempo 60s flavoured You Could Be Wrong with its cinematic sweeping strings and his contemplative guitar solo.
The title track, on which they take turn singing lead, affords a showcase for Whitmore’s fiddle work as well as some yearning pedal steel and the album ends with the bonus track of the pop shaded folksiness of Anchor as they sing “we’re gonna shine.” And brightly so.
Photo Credit Curtis Wayne Millard