If you’re lucky, it’ll be one or two songs on an album that instantly grab you and draw you in. Maybe three songs, if you’re really fortunate. If all the stars have aligned, Jupiter and Mars share a rising sun and moon phase, and the universe has (somehow, in its infinite wisdom) discerned that you need good music around you, you’ll find an album where you connect with half the songs. That’s as rare as a blue moon, though – I can count on one hand (ok, maybe two hands) how often that has happened.
That’s why Transient Lullaby is such an extraordinary body of work: not one, not two, not even half, but each and every song on The Mastersons’ newest release has something that’s going to draw you in and keep you there, hanging on to every word, every phrase, every guitar lick or violin line.
And there are a lot of guitars and violins. Mandolins, too. Dobros. Organs. Harmonicas. Other string instruments and percussion instruments galore. In their infinite wisdom, Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore explore a huge sound world, blowing it wide open with lush orchestration, gorgeous string arrangements, a mix of acoustic and electric sounds and spot-on vocal harmonies that, more often than not, don’t resolve to the chord you think they’re going to resolve to – one more reason to keep listening, as you think to yourself: “What will this duo think to do next?”
That’s also a question you might ask them when it comes to their career trajectory – what will The Mastersons think to do next? If they’re not touring as a duo, they’re on the road with Steve Earle, as part of his band The Dukes. And it’s that nonstop motion, exhausting for some, that energizes this husband and wife team. “When you travel like we do, if your antenna is up, there’s always something going on around you,” reflects guitarist/singer Chris Masterson. “Ideas can be found everywhere. The hardest thing to find is time.”
The Mastersons did find the time, though, and used it wisely, creating an album that’s filled with images and ideas of wanderlust (“Transient Lullaby”), relationships that come and go (“Highway 1”), devoted lovers (the Neil Young-esque “Fire Escape”) and cautious optimism in an uncertain future (“Perfect”).
The Mastersons’ laid back groove brings to mind the best of 1960s and 70s folk pop while their unusual arrangements and surprising vocal harmonies place them firmly in the present. And it’s the unique lens they use to look at the world around them (and us), not to mention their seemingly endless supply of energy, that ensures they’ll be singing and playing long into the future.