The Mastersons at the Real Music Club
The Errigle Inn, Belfast
Thursday 9th February 2017
Marital harmony at the Real Music Club
The Mastersons are welcome return visitors to the Real Music Club at the Errigle Inn and have built a solid audience amongst local fans of Americana/alternative country.
Man and wife since 2009, they both had put albums out individually before pooling their resources and becoming mainstays of Steve Earle’s touring band The Dukes and Duchesses in 2011.
First up however, is Anthony D’Amato, a young singer-songwriter from New Jersey. He breezes through a fine run of songs from his four albums. The pick of the set are ‘Good and Ready’ with its dry social commentary:
Let me die on the subway. Could they even tell?
and ‘Rain On A Strange Roof’, detailing the ambiguities of loneliness in a couple, set to a Bo Diddly-esque beat:
No I ain’t in love but I’ll be there soon. Lying awake, she’s still sleeping on. Now I’m just listening to rain on a strange roof.
His current album ‘Cold Snap’ is well worth a listen.
Next, the main event.
And as hard as they try, dressing in matching denim jackets and jeans, they do present as quite an odd couple. Eleanor a mass of red hair, and cool demeanour, and the thickly bespectacled Chris, who best resembles the nerdy kid at school who was always last to be picked when it came to choosing teams.
However, the couple’s easy-going charm soon has the almost full room very quickly on board. The guitar and fiddle make a mighty sound as they tear through the opening number ‘You Could Be Wrong’.
The couple is here to promote their new, as yet, unreleased album ‘Transient Lullaby’. Advance promotional copies are on sale tonight. The next mini-set of songs are all taken from it. The best of which is ‘Fight’ with its neat rejoin.
I don’t want to fight with anyone but you.
Eleanor’s fiddle is replaced by a four string tenor guitar and they rattle through a number of fast paced country-tinged songs, ‘Crash Test’ and the defiant ‘Don’t Tell Me To Smile’.
The newly-recorded ‘Highway One’ saw The Mastersons mug it up as a warring couple with a playful push and shove charade on stage. ‘The Other Shoe’ showed the true closeness of the two, both in word and voice, and that is the secret of their success.
Eleanor has a really strong versatile voice equally at home in slow country ballads and more up-tempo songs. Chris’s voice is pleasant on its own, But it’s the harmonies between the two that lift their catalogue to a heightened level.
A tribute to their friend and fellow performer Chris Porter, who found a new degree of fame after his death, was offered in ‘You Got The Last Laugh’.
In line with a number of American performers who have appeared in Belfast, The Mastersons spoke of their “country in distress” as symbolised by their flag decals, being worn upside down on their denim jackets. Eleanor, in particular, being vociferous in her condemnation of the 45th President of the United States of America.
Our country could do with a bit of good fortune.
From there, we were led into perhaps their best-known track, ‘Good Luck Charm’. The last song of the set, was a song we all dearly would have loved to have heard from the writer himself; ‘The Right Stuff’. It is still difficult to hear the words, played as a well-received tribute to Belfast legend Bap Kennedy, without welling up.
Time is such a strange arrangement. You think you have too much and then it’s gone. But I know this world will keep on spinning when you and I have slipped this mortal coil.
A great cover of The Louvin Brothers’ classic ‘If I Could Only Win Your Love’ – most famously covered by Emmylou Harris – was an unexpected delight. For the last tune of the night, Anthony D’Amato joined The Mastersons on stage, for a rousing version of Dylan’s ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’.
There is a simplicity and a great deal of charm to the music of The Mastersons, and whilst it is a joy to see them in the intimate surroundings of tonight, one can only hope that that they move on to bigger and better stages.
Until that time we wish the couple many happy returns to The Errigle.