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      2. The Mastersons

        No Time for Love Songs

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        As the Mastersons, husband-and-wife duo Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore have carved out an appealing catalog of warmly understated albums that lean toward Americana's lusher and more pop-driven environs. As ace sessions players and longtime bandmates of Steve Earle (among many others), their deep musicality and penchant for applying tidy arrangements to their own songs makes a lot of sense. On No Time for Love Songs, their fourth outing together, they peg former collaborator Shooter Jennings to helm the ship. Masterson and Whitmore have backed up two of Jennings' own releases (2012's Family Man and 2013's The Other Life) and reunited with him in 2019 to play on the Grammy-winning Tanya Tucker comeback vehicle While I'm Livin'. Throughout their career, the Mastersons have embraced the nomadic lifestyle of the road, living in between tours in various parts of Texas as well as in Brooklyn. This time around, they've settled in Los Angeles and their music has taken on a very compatible shade of vintage West Coast pop. Recorded at the iconic Sunset Sound studios, No Time for Love Songs accents the couple's earthy alt-country tones with whiffs of smooth '70s FM rock ("The Silver Line") and jangling guitar pop ("Eyes Open Wide"), while emphasizing Whitmore's exquisite violin and string arrangements and the way her dulcet voice blends with Masterson's slightly dustier pipes. The overall songwriting is of the same high quality and appealingly honest style as on previous Mastersons' releases, though with its gently psychedelic flourishes and gorgeously building crescendos, the ballad "So Impossible" feels like a creative and emotional peak that represents the specific flavor of this album. For his part, Jennings deftly plays to the duo's strengths and surrounds them with a complementary sonic environment that dips and swells in all the right places, helping to keep the Mastersons just slightly adjacent to Americana's more obvious paths and in their own unique little world.

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