I was going to do one of these things about Daniel Romano some time last year when his 2013 LP “Come Cry With Me”, a classy collection of both country & western songs was causing a stir around here. Daniel & his music was new to me & I eventually settled for a tip of my stetson to the record in a piece about the much longer established Lyle Lovett. Anyhoo, there’s a new LP, “If I’ve Only One Time Askin” coming around on New West Records at the end of this month & the first single is a song good enough for George Jones though I doubt that “The Possum” would have included the odd endpiece on his version of “The One That Got Away”.
“Come Cry…” came wrapped in a sleeve showing dude Daniel in his finest Western wear. The Nudie Cohn inspired threads reference a bunch of guys named Hank though, everybody knows, Gram & the Burritos chose this embroidered, rhinestone cowboy rig another time we were reminded of the heart & soul in old school Country music. Romano had started in Ontario with his group Attack in Black, a punky-pop guitar deal. His solo work reaches back to the music of 1950’s Nashville, before producers like Chet Atkins & Owen Bradley moved into the middle of the road & developed the smooth countrypolitan crossover “Nashville Sound”. I was initially expecting to find a little too much artifice in the art of this homage. I was wrong, there’s a lot more to Daniel Romano than hipster hillbilly. He knows how this music goes.
Daniel Romano writes tragic songs of life. Man, there’s a lot of lost love, empty bottles & broken hearts here. Musically he & his band, the Trilliums, work from a tried, tested, traditional, familiar palette & that sympathetic pedal steel works a treat. Lyrically he can get tears from a rock but he’s smart not saccharine & anyway I’ve heard a lot of sad songs, I like them. Lines like “There are lines in my face that don’t come from smiling” can seem a little arch but no more than Lovett’s “I married her because she looks like you”. They are both working with a heritage & with conventions that they respect, intelligent enough to produce work that is amusing but not taking the piss, modern & beyond mere revivalism.
The conventional structure of the songs is familiar . If it was good enough for Hank Williams…what is impressive is the knack Romano has for injecting originality & impetus into the formula. Repeated exposure to his tunes reveals his range too. “Chicken Bill” is one of those Tex Williams style talking blues, always a good thing. There’s a touch of gospel too but without the, y’know, Jesus stuff. The two videos here are both tracks from the “Sleep Beneath the Willow” LP (2011), another assembly of anguish which also includes “Hard On You” which sounds like a hit to me. The Darwinist promo for “Time Forgot (To Change My Heart)”, the best slab of Lee Hazlewood influenced doom I’ve heard for a while, is funny & strange, I like both of those things.
This week I discovered a new clip on the Y-tube of the band playing live at the Best Kept Secret festival last month over in Hilvarenbeek, the Netherlands. “Best Man” is not on the tracklist for the new LP, maybe it will be on the already announced next one “Mosey”. Offstage Daniel drops the cowpoke-in-a-cadillac couture, the song has a loose alt-country feel & is a fine example of a tune that keeps on keeping on to the end. So, a couple of indicators to future music from Daniel Romano. On the evidence of these & of the last two LPs whatever he releases will be interesting & I will be interested.