The Mastersons Fly South To Familiar Territory

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Chris Masterson and wife Eleanor Whitmore may live in Brooklyn these days, but like many New Yorkers, they are avid snowbirds. So much so, their new album will be titled Bird Fly South.

"We're like migratory birds, we always head down to Texas for the Christmas holidays and stick around as long as we can," says Houston native Masterson from SugarHill Studios engineer Steve Christensen's house in the Heights. "We love New York, but not the winter weather."

With family in Houston, Austin, and the Dallas area, Masterson notes that the couple "can stay down here for almost nothing, so we do."

This year they decided to record an album at George Reiff's home studio in Austin. Christensen is mixing the album now, and Masterson expects it to be mastered by April 1.

While Masterson and Whitmore have both released solo albums, this will the be the first album as The Mastersons.

"We've been on the road so much the past few years it took some time to jell as one act," says Masterson. "We've been writing songs as they came, and we finally started to sound like a band instead of a song swap. So we thought we were ready to do an album together."

By May, the couple will be in rehearsals with fellow New Yorker/transplanted Texan Steve Earle for his upcoming tour in support of his new album on New West Records, and Masterson couldn't be happier with the tour arrangements.

"I've known Steve for a long time, and he had asked me if I'd be interested when he fired The Dukes back up," he says. "But then he said he wanted to take Eleanor out too if that was okay with me, and I was like 'that's my optimum situation.'

"Now he's talking about letting us do a number during his set, spotlighting us, so it looks like it's going to be a fantastic opportunity.

"Steve's record drops in April, and the bus leaves around June 1," adds Masterson. "It looks like we're going to do all of North America, so this will likely last way into the fall."

The Mastersons played three gigs during the recent SXSW in Austin, and while Masterson is ambivalent about the value of playing the festival these days, he notes that it was a humbling experience for the couple.

"Eleanor and I have both been on the road as side players for years," says Masterson, who spent the past few years as Son Volt's guitarist with Whitmore alongside on fiddle.

"In Austin, doing our own thing, we're new artists no matter that we've got all these years on the road, so it's like 'When do you want us there?' versus being a sideman, where all I care is what does it pay."

The Mastersons play 8 p.m. tonight at Under The Volcano, 2349 Bissonnet, 713-526-5282.

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