The Mastersons – Aaron Lee Tasjan opens

The Mastersons – Aaron Lee Tasjan opens

Mar 13, 2015 |  0 comments
Date: Mar 13, 2015 Time: 8:00 PM Price: $!2 in advance/$15 day of show Type: Americana

The Mastersons.

Husband and wife, singing and playing together.

And they’re each deft instrumentalists, and they’ve spent years playing in others’ bands before coming together as a unit. They’re bound by music and an uncommon depth of companionship, they’re good enough to make Steve Earle swoon, and all of that sounds quite nice.

Until 16 and a half seconds into track one, when Eleanor Whitmore begins singing, “The twitch in my left eye came back today.”

“Yeah, we’re not exactly gazing lovingly at each other while we’re playing these songs,” says guitarist Chris Masterson. “Sometimes the ‘couple’ thing can seem a bit schmaltzy. We’re more a band than a duo, and we’re not going to be George and Tammy. We might not even be John and Exene.”

That’s not to say that these folks don’t love each other, or that they aren’t of a piece. It’s just that listening to The Mastersons – either live or on their immediately engaging, musically expansive debut album, Birds Fly South (due out April 10 on New West Records) – isn’t akin to eavesdropping on two soulmates’ impossibly intimate conversation. This is more fun than that, with bright melodies that lead to dark lyrics, inventive harmonies and enough sparkle and twang to fashion a Porter Wagoner suit. Together, Whitmore (who plays guitar, violin, mandolin and most anything else with strings) and Masterson arrive at a singular blend that Emmylou Harris speaks of as “the third voice,” one distinct from its individual elements.

“Eleanor on her own has a beautiful voice, far better than mine,” Masterson says. “But when we come together, something bigger happens.”

That “something bigger” is captured in full on Birds Fly South, an album with soul and groove and teeth and not an ounce of schmaltz. Like the Jayhawks or Buddy & Julie Miller, it exists in an expansive territory that encompasses rock, pop, blues and country, but this is not an “If you like x, then you’ll like y” kind of record. It’s an unexpected and frequently astonishing melding of sensibilities, from two unique yet perfectly-matched artists.

 

cropped-aaron-lee-tasjan-curtis-wayne-millard-2Songwriter, guitarist and producer Aaron Lee Tasjan grew up in the middle of the middle, central Ohio, USA. It was there he learned to play the guitar and by the age of 16, had performed with Peter Yarrow and made his first trip to New York City where he was given the Outstanding Guitarist Award by The Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center. Though a full scholarship to the Berklee College Of Music was offered to him following his high school graduation, he chose to return to New York City instead and it was there he met up with Justin, Cole and Dan to form the band Semi Precious Weapons. As SPW began performing around NYC, Tasjan caught the eye of Drivin’ n Cryin’s front man Kevin Kinney who had just relocated to Brooklyn. Kinney subsequently took Tasjan on many tours as both a guitarist and opening act, and became a mentor to Tasjan, guiding him towards the revelation that in music you never have to be defined by one sound or genre. This idea would shape the form of Tasjan’s own music significantly over the next few years.

“When I learned how to play the guitar I was obsessed with songs…I didn’t care about soloing or anything fancy at first.” As Tasjan explains his creative process, we begin to understand the amazing array of sounds in his songs. “When I write songs I try to put all of my favorite things into each one, and those things happen to be loud Rock’n’Roll, folk and country music. It’s a hodge-podge or a melting pot…it just occurred to me one day that I’d love to see someone singing real songs with beauty and grit, then launch into some sort of stadium rock-esque guitar solo and then go back to the song again. I decided to do my best to land somewhere between a folk singer and the dude with no shirt on as the wind blows through his hair and a fucking eagle lands on his guitar neck.” Here is a guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and he’s dead serious about that notion.

 

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