When it comes to American songwriting, “the road” is nearly as constant a muse as is unrequited (or altogether impossible) love. For the Mastersons — the husband-and-wife duo that is as well-known for backing Steve Earle as for fronting its own projects — the road is a constant, inescapable reality. Thus, the title track from their new album Transient Lullaby, comes as little surprise.
As the tune gets rolling, Eleanor Whitmore’s vocals drive this car — the rolling rhythm of a wheel on a hill, the dark, careless color of a sleepless night — through verses about the sustaining nature of habitual travel. “Transient Lullaby is a cosmic country tale of wanderlust,” Whitmore says. “Over the past five years we’ve lived in Brooklyn, Austin, Los Angeles, and have a desert hideout in Terlingua, Texas. Combined with a nearly constant touring schedule, we truly feel like ‘Pilgrims of the interstate … Can’t stay still when you’re moving on’.”
Whitmore’s husband and constant collaborator Chris Masterson agrees. “We’re nomadic and the movement is constant,” he told me in a recent interview. “I think when you visit all these places, that can be your muse — people and interactions and different climates.”
Indeed, all those elements show up in “Transient Lullaby,” as does the longing of a well-timed pedal steel and the easy harmonies for which the duo is known. Behind it all, you can feel the familiarity of the Austin studio where they recorded, in a rare break from a relentless touring schedule.
“We live out of our suitcases and we cherish any time we can spend at home with our dog and our turntable,” says Masterson. Of course, if they must be away from their turntable, at least we can be close to ours, with this new music from the Mastersons en route. Transient Lullaby will be available May 19.