The Mastersons – St Bonaventure's 8/10
WITH Hurricane Sandy about to hit their adopted hometown of New York, Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore had more than enough reasons to be thinking of other things.
But, while there were plenty of comments about the impending hurricane, the husband and wife seemed more focussed on going down a storm on this, their first ever first to Britain as The Mastersons. The Texas-born couple certainly succeeded in winning over this audience with their close harmony songs that leaned more towards pop, particularly indie-rocker Crash Test and Collapsible Plans, although at times there were similarities with the alt.country of Whiskeytown.
With the bespectacled Chris Masterson pumping out chords and inserting rock-like solos on his big white Gretsch guitar and Eleanor Whitmore playing acoustic guitar and very fine fiddle, they concentrated mostly on songs from their much-praised new debut album.
It is her voice that was the real star of the show. With great clarity and accuracy, it had hints of Joan Baez and Emmylou Harris which is not a bad combination by any standard.
Chris Masterson's voice was more ordinary and he had trouble reaching some of the higher notes, particularly in encore song Virginia Belle.
The real standout song of the night was Birds Fly South, the lovely slow title track of their album.
Individually, they cut their musical teeth as members of various bands working behind people like Diana Ross, Bobby Bare, Son Volt and Regina Spektor and more recently both were in the legendary Steve Earle's backing band. It showed, for they would probably have sounded far better with a band around them. Chris Masterson's electric guitar sounded too thin and chunky for the duo format and you felt that switching to an acoustic guitar would have added more depth. Nevertheless, they did have a lovely sound.