Transient Lullaby (Red House)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., May 26, 2017
Wife/husband team Eleanor Whitmore and Chris Masterson have carved out a seemingly successful career amid constant touring, so Transient Lullaby tempers the sometime Austinites' charmed harmonies with more mellow, highway-worn tunes. Recorded locally at Arlyn Studios, with additional engineering and bass supplied by the great George Reiff in one of his final efforts, the duo's third LP reflects its compositional road genesis in sentiment and sound. The result winds unevenly, especially with Whitmore's sometimes extravagantly flourishing string arrangements, but the couple's voices settle against each other with familiar warmth. Opener "Perfect" swoons a touch of Aimee Mann from Whitmore, echoed in the poppier bite of "Don't Tell Me to Smile," while the title track pairs like Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons. Standout "Fight" plucks sharp violin to bantered rhythm and "This Isn't How It Was Supposed to Go" sweeps a classic country duet. Still, "Fire Escape" and "Highway 1" soften the center, and "Shine On" offers an uncharismatic lyrical miss, though salvaged by the exceptional "Happy When I'm Movin'." The Mastersons keep finding moments of revelation in movement, and a partnership with many more miles to unfold.