Daniel Romano 'If I’ve Only One Time Askin’' - New West

The Canadian singer/songwriter and producer returns with his best album to date. Romano uses country music as a basis for his songs, but draws from many sources to make his music contemporary and compelling. Once again this is far removed from the output of Nashville’s Music Row and so much more interesting because of it. Romano is a stylist and presents his music as a concept the he has conceived from writing, producing and performing through to photography and packaging. He is also a distinctive singer who breathes life into these songs of love.

This is love looked at in all it’s aspects from the disenchantment of Old Fires Die to the hope of The One That Got Away (Came Back Today). Strange Faces and All The Way Under the Hill are endowed with weeping pedal steel and twangy guitar.  There is a striking vocal intro to There’s a Hardship that is otherworldly, with Romano emoting the word “Mosey” before the song turns into a country lament with piano and accordion. Mosey is a key word here in that it defines his music and attitude. “A study in contrasts” he has called it. It is something that appears on the back of his leather jacket and in other aspects of his presentation and is used to sum up his eclectic approach to his personal take on country and sundry other musical traditions. Taking them and turning them, as he does here, into something very much his own.

His skill as a writer is matched by his skill as a producer in bringing these songs to life and in telling the stories that are relevant to an audience who can listen to such crafted music with an open mind. The old-school storytelling of Two Word Joe is done without artifice, telling the story of a two-time loser who can only sum up his feeling in two words. It’s country bed is enhanced by some judicious wah-wah guitar playing. This runs, as do all the songs, straight for one song into the next track and often linked by a short musical interlude that can sound like slipping across the radio dial from a country station to one playing something completely different. The way this is done, however, is pretty seamless and not the least bit incongruous. The final song is introduced by an old timer singing with an acoustic guitar in a what sound like a piece of found music before fading into a gentle and reflective song Let Me Sleep (At The End of a Dream) which is sung with an assured vocal and some smokey pedal steel guitar.

This promo CD comes without any credits, so I’m assuming that all the songs (bar his cover of a lesser know George Jones recording Learning To Do Without Me, written by Dennis Knutson, Buck Moore and Doodle Owens) are originals. Equally the playing throughout is spot on and, without access to credits, I’m also assuming that the music is provided largely by Romano himself with contributions from members of his band The Trilliums. Caitlin Rose is a welcome guest and sings on Strange Faces. In photographs Romano has appeared in a rhinestone suit and in a classic pinstripe suit as well as a cowboy hat and leather jacket. Visually as well as musically he draws on the past and adapts a multitude of sources to create his own music. The end result is pure Romano and the album is another contender for best of the year.