Preview Transient Lullaby by The Mastersons.
Transient Lullaby by The Mastersons
One of the two definitions of “transient” is “staying or working in a place for a short time only.” That perfectly defines this husband and wife duo who have been on the road for seven years now with few breaks. Following them on social media is in itself a travelogue, not just every corner of the USA but around the world too as they perform both as headliners as well as support for and members of Steve Earle’s Dukes. It’s not often you see the openers return to play a full set as an integral part of the headline act. They do. While “transient” refers to movement, it’s not just motion but in a creative sense. Transient Lullaby blends all that activity into The Mastersons’ most complete recording so far.
Their debut, Birds Fly South met much deserved acclaim, its title track having become a staple of their live show. Their next album, Good Luck Charm had an almost jangly sound, but this new release has a much deeper sound, created by co-producers Chris Masterton and George Reiff. Despite that reference to movement this record comes across as their most contemplative recording yet, as if they are taking stock of the show so far. For that reason I’d say it’s their best yet.
What hasn’t changed are their beautifully intertwined harmonies, wry lyrics and musical dexterity; highlights being Chris on lead guitar and Eleanor’s string playing. What does seem different is the deeper sound and a sense of reflection in many of the songs whether directed internally or externally.
"Perfect" opens with a string flourish before settling into a pace that allows the lyrics to take prominence, ‘we’re not perfect but we’ll turn these tears to gold’. The instrumentation ebbs and flows while Eleanor’s voice is pitched as the title says. Next comes the title track where Chris and Eleanor seem to define themselves, "pilgrims of the highway." There is some lovely pedal steel as the tempo picks up then drops. You can almost see the vastness of the plain and the long straight road to the next gig. "It’s been great but I can’t stay long." And off they go again.
More traveling comes in "Highway 1" and "Happy When I’m Movin’," both of which not so much accept the toll exerted by being on the road but as the title of the second suggests, this is a life choice, spare in its lyrics, slide guitar and harmonica, ‘can’t stay long my friend, happy when I’m moving’.
There are also elements of political view. They wrote "You Could Be Wrong" in their dressing room before a show in Lexington KY in response to a local county clerk’s refusal to issue marriage licensces to same sex couples after the Supreme Court had legalized gay marriage. "Fire Escape," perhaps the best example of this deeper feel, seeks the strength and reassurance of loved ones amid a world riven with fear. There is an almost Neil Young sound to the opening bars before The Mastersons’ haunting harmonies and sensitive strings envelop the listener to the end.
Transient Lullaby takes more time to get into than its predecessors but it is well worth the effort as that new dimension definitely adds to The Mastersons’ already varied repertoire.