Archive for Son Volt

SXSW Interview: The Mastersons

Posted in Rock Moment, SXSW with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by 30daysout

Chris and Eleanor Masterson.

by George Kovacik

I first saw Chris Masterson in the late 1980s at a place called Blythe Spirits in Houston. His dad would bring him and his guitar to the open mic night on Sundays because he was too young to get in. He had loads of talent and you tell by watching him that college and a 9-to-5 job was not in his future. His wife Eleanor Whitmore, also started playing at a very young age. She picked up the fiddle at age 4 and hasn’t put it down since. I had a chance to chat with the pair about how they got started, working with Steve Earle, playing 11 gigs at SXSW, and their new CD Birds Fly South, set for release on April 1o on New West Records.

30 Days Out: What made you guys want to become musicians?

Eleanor Whitmore: My mom is an opera singer and my dad is a folk singer, so I didn’t have much of a choice about being a musician. I started at age 4 1/2 on violin, you know, I grew up playing with my dad and I am also classically trained. I have a music degree and played in bands in high school and college and it’s kind of what I’ve always done.

Chris Masterson: I basically grew up with a guitar in my hands. I think I was 8 years old when I could finally get my hands around a guitar neck. You know I grew up in Houston and I saw Johnny Winter at that time at Rockefeller’s and I’ve had the instrument in my hands ever since. I’m a product of going to folk shows and blues jams.

30 Days Out: How did you guys get together?

Chris Masterson: We met at a festival about six years ago in Colorado. I was playing with Jack Ingram and Eleanor was playing with Susan Gibson. We sort of wound up at this after-party cowering in the corner. It was a big, fat drunken after-party and we both met each other cowering in the corner.

Eleanor Whitmore: We were both kind of hanging out being quiet and the guitar passed around and we got to play together a little bit and hit it off.

Chris Masterson: We started talking, but then she picked up the fiddle and I was enamored by her playing. For a minute the musician in me took over and I thought to myself I need to play music with this person. It was that as much as any physical attraction that drew me to her.

30 Days Out: What’s it like being husband and wife and having a band together?

Chris Masterson: F**king insane. With that level of intimacy, the professionalism goes out the window. I think sometimes we’re hard on each other when we are working stuff out. There is a certain level of diplomacy you have like if you were talking with other band members and we try to keep it together so we don’t stress out our other band members.

30 Days Out: Tell me about your new CD, Birds Fly South.

Chris Masterson: We’ve been living in Brooklyn for the past four years and our families are still in Texas. We just started to realize driving south and leaving the snow behind, we started thinking about migrating birds and how they had the right idea. A year-and-a-half ago we were sitting in my parent’s house in the Hill Country watching a blizzard hit New York and had our housemates send us pictures of the snow drifts on the street as I was sitting in shorts and a t-shirt in Texas. We went out on the porch and wrote the song “Birds Fly South” in about 20 minutes.

Eleanor Whitmore: We were lucky because it was a couple of days before we started recording and we came up with the title track quickly.

30 Days Out: Why was it important for you to come back to Texas to record the CD?

Chris Masterson: We had a great network of friends and musicians down in Texas and people that we wanted to work with. Making a record in Texas you can stretch out a small budget even further. We had a great time. We would play a song or two and all eat and it was really a family vibe, which is I think what we needed.

Eleanor Whitmore: We have a great network up in New York too, but we have made a few recordings with Steve Christensen (who won a Grammy for engineering Steve Earle’s Townes), George Reiff on bass and Falcon Valdez on drums and you know its kind of always been an all-star team for us. George has really expanded his studio at his house in Austin and we kind of always come back to Texas during the holidays anyway, so it just seemed to make sense economically.

30 Days Out: What is the style of music you play?

Chris Masterson: We get compared to the Jayhawks quite a bit because of our harmonies, but we are still working on the right way to describe our music at this point.

30 Days Out: You guys are set to play 11 shows in four days at SXSW. How important is a conference like SXSW to a new band trying to find an audience?

Chris Masterson: I think releasing a new album on the heels of it is important. It’s good for us to be around and omnipresent. You’ll see promoters and press people. I’ve been going to SXSW for years being a Texan. I’ve seen it grow from a small conference to what it is now and I think it definitely helps. I try to go into things with little expectations. You go out and sing your songs and hope people come out and enjoy it. Both of us have played with other artists and independent artists and now we’re coming in with a great record label, New West, and we’ve had some great experiences over the years.

30 Days Out: How is it being on label like an independent label like New West Records?

On tour with Steve Earle, left.

Chris Masterson: There is a lot of freedom. They are basically releasing a record we made untouched. It’s quite a compliment for us and we have worked with them every step of the way and have been very supportive.

30 Days Out: You both played with Steve Earle on his last tour and you will be his opening act when he hits the road in a few weeks. How did you guys get involved with him?

Chris Masterson: I met Steve about 11 years ago at a festival in Australia. He had Eric Ambel playing guitar for him at the time and then he went off to do a couple of solo records, but I knew if he would ever fire up the band again that I would have the gig. We have been friends ever since.

Eleanor Whitmore: I played with Allison Moorer (Earle’s wife) for a few years since we’ve been in New York and I think she was instrumental in getting me in the band.

Chris Masterson: It was a great honor to get the gig, but where he really blew us away was asking Eleanor to come out too and then featuring us in the show. He’s been one of our biggest supporters. A huge champion.

30 Days Out: There have been a few successful husband/wife teams in musical history; George Jones and Tammy Wynette and Johnny Cash and June Carter to name a couple. Do you think you guys will reach that type of success?

Chris Masterson: I don’t know. It remains to be seen. We haven’t really given it that much thought. Everything has just felt so natural and organic. We’ve just made this record and plan to go play our songs and see what happens. You know our side gigs, me with Steve Earle, Son Volt and Jack Ingram and Eleanor with Regina Spektor and Bruce (Robison) and Kelly (Willis) have given us the chance to do some pretty cool gigs and travel pretty comfortably and then we go out and make this record and it’s kind of like starting from the ground up. We are going to get in our van with our dog and go sing for whoever will listen.

The Mastersons official website

The Mastersons on Facebook

30 Days Out Interview: Steve Christensen, “Townes” engineer

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2009 by 30daysout


Last week my band, Orange Is In, was recording drums for our latest project at Rogers Recording in Houston when I stumbled upon some cool information about our engineer Steve Christensen. Steve has worked with Destiny’s Child, Jermaine Dupri, Ray Wylie Hubbard and countless others who have passed through Houston’s legendary Sugar Hill Studios. He also worked on our first two records and is not only a great engineer, but also a great guy.

During a break, we decided to go to Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys to pick up a sandwich. If you’re ever in Houston, I suggest you get the “Original.” It’s filledtownes300 with salami, ham and lots of relish, but I digress. Anyway, we’re talking and Steve proceeds to tell me that he worked on Steve Earle’s latest and greatest disc, Townes. Pleasantly surprised, I asked him if he would answer a few questions about his whirlwind trip to the Big Apple and the making of, in my opinion, the best album of the year.

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Fourth of July Party!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2009 by 30daysout

While we take a few days off to celebrate our country’s birthday, you are welcome to enjoy the enclosed music at your summer party.  See ya!

MP3: “The Star Spangled Banner” (studio version) by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

MP3: “4th Of July” (demo) by X

MP3: “Amusement Parks U.S.A.” by the Beach Boys

MP3: “Dynamite” by Son Volt

MP3: “4th of July” by Shooter Jennings w/George Jones

MP3: “Chimes Of Freedom” by Bob Dylan & Joan Osborne

MP3: “This Hard Land” (live) by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

MP3: “Momma Miss America” by Paul McCartney

MP3: “Hotdogs and Hamburgers” by John Cougar Mellencamp

MP3: “Free and Freaky” by the Stooges

MP3: “City of New Orleans” by Steve Goodman

MP3: “American Tune” by Paul Simon

MP3: “Living In The Promiseland” by Willie Nelson

MP3: “American Woman” (live) by the Guess Who

MP3: “Back In The U.S.A.” by Chuck Berry

MP3: “Shout Bamalama” by Eddie Hinton

And a few requests:

MP3: “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” by the Hollies

MP3: “BBQ and Foam” (live) by Joe Ely

Reviews: Down-Home Music

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , on June 30, 2009 by 30daysout

Cover edit              Cover

Ever have one of those days when you’re tired of rock and roll?  Maybe the day you took that Chickenfoot CD home, listened and said “eh.”  It might be time to get back to yer roots, boy. 

Levon Helm has released his second album since beating throat cancer, and Electric Dirt couldn’t be a more appropriate title.  This sequel to his acclaimed Dirt Farmer album is more, ah, electric, with joyous covers of blues and gospel and a detour through the Louisiana swamplands.  Kicking off with a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed,” the album’s first half recreates some of Farmer‘s Appalachian feel, with a highlight coming in the earthy “Growing Trade,” a sad tale about the American farmer.  But with the Allen Toussaint-arranged “Kingfish” (a Randy Newman song about the infamous Huey P. Long), Helm steers into the same territory covered by the Band in their heyday.  Unlike Elvis Costello’s current dead-on-arrival roots exercise, Electric Dirt is the real deal.

MP3: “When I Go Away” by Levon Helm

Son Volt is one of the bands that rose from the ashes of Americana darlings Uncle Tupelo, and their newest, American Central Dust plows the same rich earth as Levon’s Americana.  And with the gently loping “Roll On” or the safely rockin’ “Jukebox Of Steel,” Son Volt doesn’t stray far from their strengths.  You can always bet frontman Jay Farrar will crank out a few gems per album, and he doesn’t disappoint: “Dust Of Daylight” and the aforementioned titles are worth hitting the repeat button for.

MP3: “Roll On” by Son Volt

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