When you’re as in-demand a live act as Eleanor Whitmore and Chris Masterson, aka the Mastersons, it can be a challenge to put in the long hours required to make an excellent record. But the couple did what was necessary, including writing most of the songs while on the road with Steve Earle.
“We didn’t have much of a choice,” Whitmore said. “We were so busy we really had to take advantage of every single day off. Instead of relaxing, we would hide out in our dressing room and finish the song.”
They went into the studio as soon as the tour went on hiatus. Their efforts have now been rewarded with Good Luck Charm, brimming with virtuoso playing, lovely melodies and perfect harmonizing.
“Writing songs together and the way we approach vocals informed a lot of the record,” said Masterson. “We’ll come up with a song, hammer it into shape and then there’s a period of discovery. Who’s going to sing? There are a lot of songs that start with Eleanor but then we both sing the song all the way through. On the first record, there were a couple songs like that, but this time, our collective voices really come together. This time around, we were trying to use our voices in a different way.”
“The first record sounds like winter in New York to us,” Masterson added. “All the characters have something broken or they need antidepressants – but this record feels sunnier.”
“On the last record, we were avoiding the lovey-dovey couple thing and didn’t want to write songs that would make people roll their eyes,” said Whitmore. “This time around, we weren’t afraid of that straight-up love song.”
With few exceptions, they also used different musicians on the new album. “We put our rolodexes together,” Masterson said. “George Reiff, who played bass, was on the last record and drummer Mark Stepro was in New York when we moved there. We met him through playing with the Madison Square Gardeners. Others we met out west. John Ginty, who played keys, is from Morristown, NJ. We had never met him, but he’s probably done 25 records with our producer, Jim Scott. After talking to Jim, we bought him a plane ticket.”
Scott was also partly responsible for the wealth of great songs on the record. “Jim wanted a lot of songs, more than what we needed, so we were able to choose the best of the best,” Masterson said. “That’s a luxury that not everybody gets. We kept writing until we got to the studio.”
Considering the end result, Masterson added, “What we’re trying to do is make recordings that age well, where years from now, they don’t sound like they were following whatever trends, but just sound like good records.”
– Kay Cordtz
The Mastersons will soon play three dates in the New York area: Rough Trade in Brooklyn on the 20th, the Freedom School Concert Series in Southold, Long Island on the 21st, and City Winery in Manhattan on the 23rd.