The Mastersons | No Time for Love Songs | (Red House)
3 ½ out of 5 stars
“I want to sing a song/That will make you stop and think/Instead of turning a blind eye to all that’s wrong,” sings Chris Masterson as his wife, Eleanor Whitmore, joins in for harmonies on the opening title track to the duo’s fourth release. True to their promise and the implication of the album’s title, love songs are on the back burner.
Rather, the couple employs sweet harmonies and ringing folk/pop to explore predominantly social and societal concerns. The twosome, perhaps best known for its work supporting Steve Earle, is backed by a studio band of veterans.
These 10 originals include songs such as “Spellbound” (“To worship a monster/Such a foolish endeavor”) and the Beatles/Byrds-styled guitar of “Eyes Open Wide” (“Head ain’t in the sand … take a stand/You decide”), both of which are transparent about their meaning. The melancholy, stripped-down acoustic of “There is a Song to Sing” (“There’s a choice to make/We can bend or break”) also shows The Mastersons’ opinions on the divisive, often turbulent climate currently affecting the country. Sometimes, as in Eleanor’s haunting vocal showcase “So Impossible,” lyrics such as “Don’t lie to me/don’t even speak” can be considered either political or personal.
Musically, The Mastersons keep the melodies flowing, the harmonies supple and the overall tone somewhere between bittersweet and tart. Credit producer Shooter Jennings for capturing the duo’s ballad-heavy set with a nimble touch, at times reminiscent of the lighter side of Fleetwood Mac. The album was tracked at the legendary Sunset Sound Recorders, the home of classics from The Doors, the Beach Boys and many others, and replicates a similar vibe both in its sinuous tunes and sparkling vocals that have been The Mastersons’ calling card.
Like the tumultuous atmosphere that was the backdrop of some of those ’60s albums, No Time for Love Songs reflects the current times with a sober and measured approach.