The Mastersons, Birds Fly South

Peter Blackstock

By Peter Blackstock

on 04.10.12 in Reviews

Birds Fly South

The Mastersons
A nearly flawless collection of pop-grounded Americana

As native Texans living in New York, husband-wife Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore often feel the pull of their home state. They answered the call twice with this record: The title track was written about the desire to escape a New York winter, and the album itself was recorded in Austin with a first-rate cast (led by bassist George Reiff) during a trip that made good on the song’s promise. The yield is a nearly flawless collection of pop-grounded Americana; every song carries its own weight and builds upon the whole. The initial standout is “Crash Test,” a three-minute instant-keeper that would have struck gold in a bygone era of pure pop singles. Gradually, the duo’s compelling harmonies on “Tell Me It’s Alright” and “Would It Really Be A Sin?” rise to the fore, though it’s “The Other Shoe” that falls into the deepest groove: Whitmore’s violin rides shotgun to Reiff’s driving bass as Masterson’s dry, cool voice collides with Whitmore’s warm-front harmonies. If Masterson is less vocally gifted, his gritty delivery on “One Word More” proves singing is all about character and confidence. And when that vital title track finally arrives, it’s a perfect closer: The drama slowly builds in Whitmore’s voice until she lets loose at the end, Masterson joining in as they soar together into the heart of the Southern sky.