If there's a way in which Thompson Square can partner up, they will find it. The husband/wife and singer/songwriting team has added two more badges to their collaborations: parents (a baby son was born in 2016) and independent artists (the duo parted ways with Stoney Creek Records).
TS's second record, 2012's "Just Feels Good," didn't exactly disappoint - it carried two Top 20 singles. Still, it was a bit of a retread and sold less than half of their debut. Some of the backward drift must have been the declining novelty of their act, which involves a lot of Kiefer and Shawna Thompson gushing over one another. The couple routinely trades adoring lyrics and lock eyes in most every video. It is charming, but there's a dangerously fine line between style and repetition. Two people publicizing their profound love at length are bound to irk somebody (especially around Valentine's Day).
With "Masterpiece," freed from executive control, the Thompsons have essentially a blank musical canvas. They made a surprising choice: more of the same. They take us back to the early days of their falling for each other ("Up in Smoke" and "Let's Do Something Stupid") and settle right back into the ain't love grand topic ("Millionaires," "A Love Like This"). Production from Keith Urban and Taylor Swift's producers (Nathan Chapman, Dann Huff, and Ilya Toshinskiy) yield songs that sound just like, well, Keith Urban and Taylor Swift. The wall of sound and harmonies are nice, but too often these generic pop arrangements over simple melodies are much ado about nothing.
If there's anything to distinguish this album, it's that Shawna sings a little less lead than previous releases. The closer "Breakers" is a lovely exception. For the absolute best song, it's all about the title track. It's top-rate and deserves its place right up front. The Thompsons still show talent - Kiefer brings his brand of good tone and guitar swagger, and Shawna has emotional singing authenticity. It's just too bad this collection is missing its shot to mix things up for real. 2015's single "Trans Am," with its cars and extra fuzzy guitars, would have been a welcome addition. Thompson Square is still searching for a real masterpiece.