Album Reviews

The Mastersons – Good Luck Charm (New West Records)

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The Mastersons Good Luck CharmWith their first record since moving back to Texas from Brooklyn, Eleanor Whitmore and Chris Masterson have surpassed themselves, which is no small feat. They set the bar high with the appropriately titled Birds Fly South two years ago, but their much-anticipated follow-up presents a whole new standard for excellence. The 11 songs were written by both musicians (and occasionally another collaborator), predominantly while on tour with Steve Earle, and each one is a gem of both composition and performance.  There is just a little subtle politics and a lot of romance in their subject matter this time around.  A few songs explore the dark side of love (“Cautionary Tale,” “Anywhere But Here,” “Nobody Knows”) but most celebrate its blessings, notably the title track. (You can come with me, hold my hand/I could sure use a good luck charm.)

Their distinctive voices are arresting on their own, but they take on entirely new dimensions when they sing together and the harmonies they find are often unusual, always perfect.  To the cool songs and thrilling vocals, add the pair’s amazing musicianship and you have an album that’s close to perfect.  Listen to Whitmore’s violin on “It’s Not Like Me” and Masterson’s guitar on “Good Luck Charm” or their duet on “Nobody Knows.” Other musicians on the record include George Reiff on bass, Mark Stepro on drums, John Ginty on keys and Greg Leisz on gorgeous pedal steel. The Mastersons’ shepherd/heeler mix, Shakti, even contributes a few well-placed barks on “Anywhere But Here.” This is as good as it gets.

– Kay Cordtz

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