Justin Masters 2021
Sophomore offering by NYC musician sees him navigate the vagaries of today via a fine array of melodies.
Although Justin Masters’ 2018 debut "Good Life Bad Liver" wasn’t too comfortable an album, exposing details of the artist’s existence in front of his listener, that record felt for the most part inobtrusive – a voluntary trip into the New Yorker’s psyche – yet its follow-up, fortunately or not, will refuse to flow as delicately. Still drifting through anthemic Americana in stylistic terms, “Before And Way After” is much more robust and insistent, as sharp riffs pierce even the most lyrical numbers. There’s a new sort of determination on display – laced with sense of humor which shouldn’t be lost on an attentive ear.
Not one to linger on a promise, Masters may summarize his approach from the start, letting “The Good Hard Life” marry kitchen-sink remorse to optimistic romanticism and infectious groove to soft refrains, while, further down the line, “You Only Live Once” places solemnity alongside reckless philosophy and spikes the sticky tune with a stinging guitar solo – only regrets don’t really belong on this album. The gently rocking “Being Nineteen” seems to pick up where Stevie Nicks’ “Edge Of Seventeen” could have left off if Keith Richards played on it, and the piano-splashed “Highways Hotel” and “Convicted” take their arresting storytelling to a Jon Bon Jovi-patented chorus catharsis. At the same time, “Love Isn’t Kind To Strangers” sounds as tenderly as a non-ballad is allowed to, Justin’s faux-flamenco filigree topping the performance that’s voiced, like all the other tracks, by Zach Allen and propelled by Jason Harrison’s beat; however, “Temptation Night” finds Romeo roaming across electric, neon-lit city, and the harmonica-spiced “A Rainy Night And A Cup Of Tea” leads the trio towards pure country.
Of course, Mr. Masters isn’t going to stop there, and his next adventure will surely show enough swagger to project Justin’s profile much higher.