Ed Romanoff @Whelans, Dublin - Wed 19th Sept 2018

Ed Romanoff was pleased to be in Dublin, or maybe just to be on solid ground after a short flight from Amsterdam turned into something a marathon journey that included a quick visit to Shannon. All due to the breathy interjections of Hurricane Ally. However he was genuinely pleased to be in Ireland for a number of dates to help him embrace his Irishness.Throughout the tour he is being ably supported by the esteemed Clive Barnes whose guitar playing adds much to the overall enjoyment of the songs played. It was clear to see why Mr Barnes is in such demand as a sideman and why he is a compelling artist in his own right.

The songs were mostly from his recent and rewarding album 

The Orphan King

. As is his want Romanoff prefaced each of the songs with a story or reflection on the origin of the song.

The Night Is A Woman 

was his approach to a Van Morrison style romantic ballad, he informed us, while noting that most people hadn’t a clue as to what it was about. Much more definite was the inspiration behind 

The Orphan King

. A song co-written with Mary Gauthier who Romanoff took a DNA test with and discovered he was essentially Irish, his birth father being 100% Irish. As he was adopted into a loving Russian family, he set about trying to contact his Irish father once he discovered his existance. This included the hiring of a number of prover detectives to try and find him, however they never discovered any trace.

Many of his other songs are based on real characters, and his research into their backgrounds and histories often formed the basis of his writing for this fact based material. 

Elephant Man

 is about Joseph Merrick who he imagined finding a female companion to share his life. 

The Ballad Of Willie Sutton

 concerns the bank robber who died in 1980. He was an Irish American who became a bank robber of repute (Making number 11 on the inaugural Ten Most Wanted FBI list). It recounts the part of his life and times preceding his release from Attica State prison on parole on Christmas Eve 1969. Romanoff incorporates much of this detail in his incisive writing. He writes both solo and with a co-writer. Many on the most recent album are written with Crit Harmon.

Romanoff also tells the audience that he only really started to become a writer after the age of 40 and never really thought of himself as a singer, recalling that his (adoption) father was tone deaf and he considered himself the same. He humorously noted that he was advised that it might be best if he mouthed the words of the songs

, by the leader of his school choir. However Romanoff is a much improved singer now and able to deliver his songs with a certain conviction. He would never consider himself a great vocalist but, similar to singers like John Prine, one who is able to deliver the song despite any limitation of his vocal range.

Playing acoustic guitar and sometimes adding a beat with a foot pedal he blends this with the atmospheric guitar of Barnes to create something that is effective and entertaining. Barnes played a couple of full on solos that enhanced the dynamic of the offering. Humour is ever present despite his noting that many of these songs hit the down elevator in terms of mood, but do so within the realm of optimism. Luan Parle joined the duo onstage, adding her exquisite vocals to several songs including a version of Springsteen’s 

I’m On Fire

 sung by Clive. For a couple of numbers Romanoff also calls folk-singer Peter Doran to the stage and they all join in on 

Blue Boulevard (Na Na Na)

Romanoff was called back by the small but attentive audience for a two song encore. The first solo then he was joined by Barnes on his big silver Gretch for the final songs which also saw Parle and Dorian returning on the stage to end a satisfying night.

Review by Stephen Rapid   Photography by Kaethe Burt O'Dea