We live in dire times of political crises and climate change. The Mastersons know this. They may be coy about it, as in the title song that opens their wise new album. Life is too serious for love songs. “I want to sing a song that’ll make you stop and think,” Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore purr with an aching urgency. The world is unraveling around us. But the married duo know better. It’s human feelings that make living worthwhile, which is just as true now as it was back when Paul McCartney crooned about the value of silly love songs back in the 1970s. The Mastersons praise emotions by denying their importance in sweet, earnest voices.
The truism that the world is falling apart this time for sure has been the conventional viewpoint for members of every generation. Okay, so now may seem worse than ever to many, but life has never been easy. Even if one ignores present problems, everyone dies sometime, and everyone we know and love will die. That has always been the case. We only “Circle the Sun” so many times. There is no rewind button. The Mastersons address this fact thematically across the record. “Thought we’d have more time,” Eleanor sings longingly with Chris backing her up. Time passes. Or Chris croons of “The Silver Line”, “Up above and down below / Just like that and then you’re gone.” The best we can do is keep our “Eyes Open Wide” and look ahead.
The flow of the music itself suggests the confidence gained by just keeping on. The album was recorded at Los Angeles’s legendary Sunset Sound studios with Shooter Jennings and engineered by five-time Grammy Award-winning engineer, Ryan Freeland. Chris and Eleanor both played a variety of instruments: Chris on different acoustic and electric guitars and Eleanor on violin, mandolin, and other stringed instruments. While their vocals are at the forefront, the married couple are creative musicians who know how to turn a phrase inside out with their hands as well as their voices. Eleanor’s sister Bonnie Whitmore plays bass and sings back up, Mark Stepro handles the drums and percussion, and Tyler Chester handles various keyboards. The album was recorded in about three weeks, which contributes to the fact that the album seems all of a piece.
“There Is a Song to Sing,” Chris notes in a dignified voice and adds, “We can rise up tomorrow / When it’s time to greet the new day.” The dead will always be with us. We can grieve our losses, express our regrets, and then carry on. Despite our mortality and the wicked times in which we live, life goes on. That’s “The Last Laugh”—we might all die, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. The Mastersons aren’t concerned with the afterlife. They are concerned about life after death for those left here on Earth. As such, No Time for Love Songs offers a positive lesson. The new album is just one of the many pleasures we get to enjoy while we are here.