Not quite country, Americana, folk, songwriter or pop, Daniel Romano’s exquisite and expansive new album, If I’ve Only One Time Askin’, due July 31 on New West Records, is pieces of each, but ultimately the work of a singular mind. To peer inside, all you have to do is listen. Self-produced and largely self-performed in his hometown Welland, Ontario, a picturesque water town near Niagara, the album features Romano’s baritone croon and poetic hard luck storytelling set atop an expanded palette filled with sweeping strings, blasts of horn, stately piano, twangy pedal steel, an 808 drum machine and swaths of accordion. Not a retro preservationist, nor a post-modern cowpunk, the songwriter embraces classicism and sadness in its extremes to create something beyond nostalgia. Check out the first single “The One That Got Away (Came Back Today),” which premiered via Rolling Stone who described the album as “countrypolitan crooning, honky-tonk heartache and mid-century melodrama.” (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/premieres/hear-daniel-romano-pine-for-the-one-that-got-away-20150414) As a result of Romano’s immense artistic growth and a testament to the hard work he put in touring behind his 2013 LP, Come Cry With Me, released on New West’s emerging artist imprint Normaltown Records, his fourth album, If I’m Only One Time Askin’, is receiving its release on New West, making him the labelmate of such celebrated songwriters as Steve Earle, John Hiatt and alumni Kris Kristofferson and Warren Zevon. Come Cry With Me was long-listed for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize, received a Juno Awards nomination for Roots & Traditional Solo Album Of The Year and garnered praise from hardcore traditionalists to tastemakers like Aquarium Drunkard and Brooklyn Vegan, who declared: “the sounds are clearly indebted to old sounds, but they also sound refreshingly new, and are some of the better country ballads to be written in recent times.” Robert Christgau, the “Dean of American Rock Critics,” took note and wrote that Romano had “a voice that’s sometimes so deep it serves as its own mournful echo chamber.” Exclaim said, “a record this sturdy in composition and delivery has the resilience to stand up to countless plays, and that timeless ache for a good, hard cry.” While references to marquee names like George Jones, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard are apparent in Romano’s music, the obvious influences certainly don't demystify his talent. A young man with an old mind and some nice suits, he works with equal parts authenticity and creativity, and his musical world is rich with archetypes and archrivals, wry observations and earnest confessions. Romano, who got his start in punk bands and was a member of Attack in Black and City and Colour before taking his songcraft into waters populated by French pop, Lefty Frizzell, ‘80s country, Leonard Cohen’s grace and Bob Dylan’s shape-shifting, casts a vast net. One to eschew labels, he created his own: Mosey. “Mosey music is a study in contrasts,” Romano says. “There’s glitz and grit, reveling and wallowing, wretchedness and showmanship. Mosey music’s pioneers wore their battered hearts on sequined sleeves.” Perhaps a fear of boredom or merely the insatiable need to create, Mosey is fired by Romano’s serious musical restlessness. Continually seeking stimulation, he can talk about fuzz guitar solos on obscure Buck Owens records, various periods of Lee Hazelwood’s creative output, Shel Silverstein’s books and songs, especially the 1998 Old Dogs project written for Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare and Jerry Reed – fluently as it happens. In addition to his own music, Romano is regularly called upon by fellow musicians to lend his talents to their songs on both the production and playing side. He has worked with The Luyas, Fred Squire and Julie Doiron (as Daniel, Fred & Julie) and The Weather Station, most recently writing the duet, "Can You See Her In My Eyes," for her collaborative series, Duets #1. Like the grain of sand that creates the pearl, Romano writes daily, throws away much, comes back to some – and is always seeing how far he can push his music. Inspiration is everywhere and he is never without pen and paper, always ready to capture the never-ending ideas for songs. “Every time there’s something new, it gets thrown into the coat pocket,” he says. “Hopefully it’s an entity and not a confused pile of papers. Sometimes,” he continues, addressing the bumps, “you sit down and there isn’t a line. That’s when the songs are a little more ethereal.” On the lean honky-tonk “Old Fires Die,” Romano comes across like a dry-mouthed Bukowski. “I get more happiness from a bottle/ And get more love from a stranger...” On the lilting title track, the suitor tries to lure a working girl away from her bed. “Honey, let me kiss your pretty face/And wash away the small remaining traces/Of every man who’s been here in my place,” he laments over a fingerpicked acoustic, a chugging electric, tinkling keys, and a galloping beat. “Strange Faces,” featuring Nashville chanteuse Caitlin Rose, is pure poetry: “If I gave my whole collection to a weakness made of man/ I would steal it back in darkness, wake up shaking my own hand/ If I ran away from something, I’d be needed for a time/ I’d return to my replacement, finding things that I can’t find.” Romano has a way of injecting levity into the sadness and it’s expertly displayed on the clever “Two Word Joe,” an upbeat shuffle about a guy who is reduced to the ability to only speak two words at a time after two women break his heart. Minimalism with high velocity emotional stakes. Country, folk and pop bathed in buzzing neon, yet created in an utterly modern construction. Major heartache, a bit of irony, a hint of fun, it’s all part of If I’ve Only One Time Askin’, a song cycle perfect for drowning one’s sorrows, drinking warm beer or getting lost on a very long, lonely night.
Underground chart position: 43