Ed Romanoff 'Self-Titled' - Self-Release

If I was to draw a musical map Ed Romanoff would be a point somewhere between Mary Gauthier, Sam Baker and Leonard Cohen. Territory that is about individuality, well-chosen words, emotional soft spoken voices and above all songs that tell stories and have some real resonance. This is Ed Romanoff's debut album and it's special. After several listens it still reveals and rewards and is a welcome musical experience. It, again, highlights that great singers don't always make for great songs. Produced by Crit Harmon, who also did the honours on those early albums of Mary Gauthier. Gauthier is a friend and co-wrote (with Romanoff and Harmon) Breakfast For One On The 5th Of July. Harmon is central to the album's success, producing the album with a crystal clear sound, he also co-wrote the majority of the songs with Romanoff. Then there are the players, all of whom contribute much to the album and they include the very talented guitarist Duke Levine and the seasoned percussion skills of Dave Mattacks. Romanoff's friend Josh Ritter is co-writer of two of songs and he adds background vocals on three numbers. The lovely Tift Merritt appears on two others. Her voice a contrasting with Romanoff's very effectively on Two Yellow Roses and New Year's Prayer in a way the best of Emmylou Harris vocal contributions tend to. Another highlight is the dark retelling of the one cover song, one deep in desperation, that goes way beyond many of the versions of the Hank Cochran/Harlan Howard classic I Fall To Pieces. It also makes very good use of Mary Gauthier's background vocals and subterranean musical setting. There is a heart of darkness to many of Romanoff's songs. For instance Lady Luck delivers a nightmare story of an unexplained disappearance "Around 4 o'clock or so, he went down to the river, and that's all anybody knows". The jazzy touches of I Must Have Done Something Right add to this tale of misadventure, which is well served by the literate musical mannerisms and references. The textures that are added throughout include cello, accordion, synth and brass and all add much to the atmosphere of what could loosely would be called folk/roots Americana. While melancholy abounds this is an uplifting album and undoubtably one of the best that has been my pleasure to hear this year.