The Mastersons: Good Luck Charm

The Mastersons
Good Luck Charm 
(New West)
3 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Male-female country collaborations are nearly as old as the genre itself. But thanks in part to the popularity of the Civil Wars, the concept is hot again. That makes the waters perfect for husband and wife duo The Mastersons to jump into the surf. It also helps that both, once solo artists, have the substantial support of Steve Earle, in whose backing band they currently play. That provides a built-in audience as they open many of his shows as well as allowing them to take tips on songwriting and performing from one of contemporary alt-country music’s finest purveyors. Earle’s ongoing collaboration with his wife Allison Moorer is also a blueprint for the Mastersons’ approach.

The majority of the vocal attention is on Eleanor Whitmore whose sweet singing is the album’s focus and highlight. Husband Chris Masterson handles the bulk of the guitar duties, harmonies and lead singing on a few tunes. Production assistance from veteran Jim Scott helps provide the sonic sparks that make this material jump out of the speakers with more assurance and punch than the duo’s previous release. Backing musicians such as pedal steel master Greg Leisz bring additional kick. Eleanor’s impressive fiddle skills generally stay on low boil but when she lets loose as on “Anywhere But Here,” you wish there were more examples of her instrumental talents.

The songs are generally relationship based and often upbeat if just shy of pop, although sunshiney selections such as “Easy By Your Side,” the harder edged “If I Wanted To” and the hooky opening title track could easily find favor with a more commercial audience. The advisory “Cautionary Tale,” arguably the disc’s most successful song, takes a lovely mid-tempo groove and adds surprisingly dark lyrics about how easy it is to lose your identity in the superficiality of the digital age. The closing “Time is Tender” rounds out the program on a melancholy, hopeful note that warns “time is borrowed/watch it slip away.”

There is little here written or played with the urgency and intensity of Steve Earle, but that’s not the direction the twosome is aiming for. Instead, this chiming country rock with its sumptuous vocals and easy flowing melodies makes a perfect soundtrack for a summer of warm nights and hot, lazy days.

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