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The Mastersons

Transient Lullaby – 2017 (Red House)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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Being part of Steve Earle's backing band, The Dukes, would seem to some a baptism of fire. Yes, The Mastersons - specifically, the husband and wife team of Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore - not only survived but thrived, spinning off a solo career that's resulted in three excellent albums. "Transient Lullaby" affirms the promise shown early on, making them an obvious heir apparent to Gram and Emmylou, Johnny and June, Porter and Dolly and every other cool country couple that's freely shared their struggles with heartache and heartbreak through candid confession and ragged remorse.

Drawing from a wellspring of traditional tapestries, the pair play out the real life drama that accompanies domestic discourse, political anxiety and the ever constant restlessness spawned by the perpetual motion that fuels life on the road. There are certain ironies inherent in many of their songs, from the stormy circumstance detailed in "Fight" ("I don't want to fight with anyone else but you") and the bitter breakup song "Highway 1," which finds each partner hurling recriminations at the other ("She warned me once, I warned him once") to the clear observations of "It Isn't How It Was Supposed to Go" and "You Could Be Wrong," two songs that take root at the heart of the nation's current disturbance and direction.

Still, for all the push and pull, "Transient Lullaby" is, as its name implies, a radiant effort, amplified by the duo's distinctive harmonies, multi-tasked instrumentation and the sense that for all their allegiance to a rootsy regimen, they're not afraid to express themselves with verve and independence. It's an excellent album in every sense, but more than that, a set of songs that indicates just how resourceful and remarkable this talented twosome have proven themselves to be. Success never comes easy, but The Mastersons are clearly primed to bring themselves within its reach.