Ghosts are always with us, waiting for the right moment, or reason, to reveal themselves. Then a song, a stretch of road, or someone’s laughter hits your ear, and suddenly you’re back in the moment, feeling the rush of emotions as if time never moved on. For Eleanor and Bonnie Whitmore, two of roots music’s most accomplished songwriter/instrumentalist/vocalists, the ghosts chose to appear right as Covid became entrenched — when live music evaporated and people were isolated from each other. The songs they conjured became The Whitmore Sisters‘ debut album, GHOST STORIES, out January 21, 2022 on Red House Records. The album was produced by Chris Masterson.
Bonnie, whose four solo albums are all state-of-a-real-woman’s-heart jewels, decided to join sister Eleanor and her husband Chris Masterson in their Los Angeles closed circle for a break during quarantine this past year. Chris, who’s recorded four albums with his wife as The Mastersons, saw the visit as an opportunity to issue a practical mandate: If Bonnie was coming, it was time for the sisters to make an album. Not just an album, but “the album” — the musical inevitability that’s been simmering since a 22-year-old Eleanor was protecting her curly headed 15-year-old sister at gigs in local bars. The collection, along with two covers — a song by their pal Aaron Lee Tasjan (“Big Heart Sick Mind” and “On the Wings of a Nightingale” (written by Paul McCartney for iconic sibling duo The Everly Brothers) — complete GHOST STORIES.
“We’ve had a lot of loss, a lot of ex and dead boyfriends, a lot of friends that have passed on – and writing about the grief, especially working towards this record, there’s been a lot to consider.”
The sisters’ closeness and unconventional upbringing, not to mention their melodic sensibility and pure blood harmonies, create something truly special.
“We have all these things that make us us,” Bonnie says. “Our mother was an opera singer; our father was a folk singer. When I heard Ian & Sylvia for the first time, I didn’t realize that song wasn’t our parents. That’s how we discovered music.”
Trained to fly as girls by a father who was an accomplished Navy Air carrier pilot, they were exposed to amphibious planes, jets, props and all sorts of aviation possibilities. Consequently, The Whitmores see the world from an above-the-world perspective. Marveling at the whimsy that comes with flying, they also acknowledge that flight allows you to see things in larger ways and make connections that can’t be seen any other way.
Opening with the languidly sweeping “Learning To Fly,” the lush power-pop feel buoys The Whitmores’ dizzying close harmonies. Explaining the lessons absorbed from flying, it serves as a metaphor for coping with life without losing the beauty.
“You see things from a different perspective,” Bonnie says. Laughing, Eleanor joins in. “I was practically born in an airplane! In our family, you fly a plane, you sing and you play an instrument. You just do. My Dad was an airline pilot, so it’s not just a means of transportation to us.”
They laugh now about their close bond, joking about the time they went through a sisterly “divorce,” which Bonnie confesses was instigated by a “total lack of boundaries” towards her big sis. But their oddly beautiful, shared life experiences make GHOST STORIES inevitable. Eleanor explains the friction then and now, “We’re very much alike. It was part of the problem in the beginning, but now it’s a strength.