Friday, April 6, 2012


One of the breakout acts at this year's SXSW in Austin was The Mastersons, a new wife-husband duet with a great pedigree.  For the past year, they've been opening shows for Steve Earle, and performing as part of his large group, The Dukes and Duchesses, getting a showcase sometimes within the Earle show.  Before that, Chris Masterson was a touring member of latter-day Son Volt, and Eleanor Whitmore has played with Regina Spektor, Kelly Willis and others.  After meeting and comparing songwriting styles, romance bloomed and the inevitable happened.  Their debut disc shows both their alt-country pedigree, and the magic that happens when the right voices blend.

Written collectively and solo, the duo come up with those honest relationship tales that strike you immediately.  There's lots of tension, lots of tenderness and lots of questioning, trying to figure out this big ol' love thing.  Both are superb singers, she with a clear, spring-water purity, he with a twangy charm.  The highs are the moments when the harmonies hit, whether one line in a verse, or joining together on the bridges and choruses.

Both are also solid string players, and provide all the acoustic and electric guitars, with Chris bringing in some nasty resonator, and Eleanor adding violin to many of the tunes.  Musically, it leans further to the rock side of roots genre, with a firm bass and drums backing throughout, similar to The Jayhawks and such, although on the soaring, mellow title cut, the acoustics take the focus, and Whitmore sings to the heavens, taking us back to her Texas roots.  It's great to know there's more excellent alt-country coming onto the scene, and even better to hear those two singing together, making harmonies to die for.

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