Husband and wife act, Texas musicians Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore have for the last 18 moths toured much of the time with Steve Earle as part of his band the Dukes and Duchesses and before that Eleanor had played with Regina Spektor, Susan Gibson, Kelly Wills and Diana Ross. While Chris had worked with Jack Ingram, Son Volt and Bobby Bare, Jr. Working with Steve has helped them gain greater attention than they would otherwise have garnered, due to him allowing them part of his show. Now with their debut record together out their recent, new found reputation is going to be built on. Their music is boundary spanning and flows fluently as pop, country, folk and blues are sparingly used.
Stepping up to the table, Whitmore rattles out her song ‘You Don’t Know’ with a punch and swagger associated with more seasoned campaigners. Such is the manner she takes control. Amidst I hasten to add, thrusting electric lead guitar and a relentless rhythmic charge of percussion, bass and tight vocal harmonies. Even stronger is the likewise, relentless ‘Crash Test’ which has more in the vocal department from Masterson with additional steel guitar (Mike Hardwick) and lots of close harmonies (and more from Whitmore too).
The other additional player is Sweney Tidball (piano, Rhodes, Wurlitzer and harmonium) who appears on the tracks ‘No Dancing’ (that also has Andrew Duplantis on harmony vocals) and ‘One Word More’ (which with Masterson singing lead lends itself towards the musical style of Mark Olson) plus Whitmore’s melancholy ‘Time’ (where she is allowed to slow things down and draw on the emotional content of the lyrics) and album title-track ‘Birds Fly South’.
On plying between themselves electric, acoustic, 12-string, resonator, high-strung, tenor guitars, violin, mandolin, baritone violin and Mando plus their producer partners George Reiff (bass) and Falcon Valdez (percussion, drums) theirs is a quite varied sound. Never finer or pure is their music than on curtain closer title-track ‘Birds Fly South’ as Eleanor sings of New York letting her down and it becoming time to fly south s they say ‘so long sidewalks and subway cars/ ‘Cause I wanna go somewhere soft where the pace is slower’. While Chris usually plays support, vocally he does take the reigns on the wistful ‘Would It Really Be A Sin?
To whom would I liken them to as a duo, The Kennedys. Maybe? Though the album was recorded in Texas, it isn’t your typical Austin record for the edges are more rounded (and this could be a mistake; since a little edginess isn't a bad thing on a record).
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