The Mastersons’ second album, Good Luck Charm, shares Eleanor Whitmore and Chris Masterson’s depth of connection both personally and after hundreds of shows together. Whether playing as a duo or band, they communicate musically in a way that brings the audience in, never crossing over into uncomfortable intimacy or leaving out the listener. Whitmore and Masterson are each stellar multi-instrument players, with years of backing incredible songwriters and bands, including their on-going gig as part of Steve Earle’s touring band. Combining their gifts, though, at first was more give and take, as on Birds Fly South (their debut together). Good Luck Charm demonstrates their comfortable interplay and loops in some of their friends for co-writes, including Country Fried Rock alumni Aaron Lee Tasjan and Steve Poltz, and many other notable pals of theirs.
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Great seventh albums are a rare phenomenon. For a band even to stay together the length of time it takes to create a discography seven LPs deep would seem to run contrary to the fast-burn Dionysian spirit of rock and roll and fly in the face of the plainly difficult dynamics of human relationships. For example, the Stooges in their original incarnation, spavined by chemicals and behaviour that Rasputin might have considered “erratic”, were never likely to remain intact long enough in mind and body to reach the exotic sphere of a septenary release. And Simon and Garfunkel only got as far as their fifth album before realising they couldn’t stand each other.
These adversities, inherent to the life of a rock band, make the mere existence of Lifestyle by Silkworm remarkable, and the achievements therein nothing short of astonishing. Therefore it is a privilege to say that this glorious seventh album by the Chicago trio of Andy Cohen (guitar), Michael Dahlquist (drums), and Tim Midyett (bass)—Chicago by way of Seattle, by way of their native Missoula—will be the subject of this Between the Grooves series. Each week, for the next 12 weeks, we will examine a track from the album, picking things apart, reveling in Lifestyle‘s joyful weltgeist, bunching our fists, shouting its choruses, nodding our heads, pondering its endless idiosyncrasies, and grinning in full thrall of its giddy intelligence.
Now six years removed from the release of the landmark Gin, one of the most important metal albums of the 2000s, anticipation had been building as Cobalt began preparing to write and record the long-awaited follow-up. However, late 2014 found the band, comprised of multi-instrumentalist Erik Wunder and vocalist Phil McSorley, embroiled in controversy after McSorley repeatedly used homophobic and misogynistic language in a Facebook comment thread. Wunder, to his credit, acted quickly, and shortly thereafter announced that McSorley was no longer a part of Cobalt, and that recording of the new album would continue with a vocalist to be named later.
Todd Grebe and his wife, songwriter Angela Oudean, left Nashville for their native Alaska, not exactly barefoot and pregnant, but definitely leaving their days in her band, Bearfoot, behind. The next step for them brought them closer to their families and found them starting their own family, with a new baby. While returning home added familiarity, circumstances of leaving Nashville led them to return to sell their remaining items down there, and also made recording an album an easy farewell.
“I mean, Kill the Lights, it’s pretty depressing sometimes, I think.”
—Brian Girgus, Skyscraper, Summer 1999
”Girl you’re a king”
After six unsparing tracks, Kill the Lights theoretically could have ended in any number of ways: perhaps with a short ending piece to ease the listener back into a more emotionally stable place, or even something with a bit of uplift to offer a sliver of hope at the close of such a draining song cycle. What lowercase went with, of course, was an exorcism even longer and more violent than the one that came just before it (“Rare Anger”); one so idiosyncratic and genuinely messed up that it can even be a little bit frightening.