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The Mastersons

No Time for Love Songs – 2020 (Red House)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by The Mastersons

When left to their own devices, the husband/wife duo known as The Mastersons stake out a decidedly different direction from that which they pursue through their day job as members of Steve Earle's backing band The Dukes. As evidenced by this soft and supple album "No Time for Love Songs," theirs is a harmonious sound imbued with hushed harmonies, gentle melodies and reflective yet resilient tones. It's a good glimpse behind the curtain, a superb showcase for two astute musicians who stand apart on their own.

That said, the title is deceiving. Given the beguiling beauty that informs each of the offerings on this 10-song set, describing this collection as anything but love songs would seem misleading, in tone of not intention. Even the title track, with its gilded, glorious designs contradicts the notion its title implies.

Both Mastersons - vocalist/guitarist Chris Masterson and his guitarist, mandolin and violin playing wife, Eleanor Whitmore - are the ideal architects of this beguiling sound, with songs such as "Spellbound," "King of the Castle," "Eyes Open WIde,"and the telling "There Is a Song to Sing" offering testimony to their tenderness and charms. Likewise, when the couple share a series of sentimenta like "You are my rock, My grandest teacher, You open up all the doors, My biggest fan," the shared affection is too obvious to ignore.

Ultimately, "No Time for Love Songs" sounds like nothing if not a series of transcendent hymns, each radiating with an intrinsic glow that can be, by turns, both merry and melancholy. A slew of special guests - producer Shooter Jennings, Aaron Lee Tasjan and Eleanor's multi-talented sister Bonnie Whitmore - add their own input into the sumptuous arrangements, but never allow them to sound cluttered or convoluted. Ultimately "No Time for Love Songs" gently flows at its own pace.

Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer and author based in Maryville, Tennessee. He also expounds on music on his web site, Stories Beyond the Music - Americana Music Reviews, Interviews & Articles. His book - Americana Music - Voices, Visionaries and Pioneers of an Honest Sound - is available from Texas A&M University Publishing.