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Event Archive - Daniel Romano, Steven Lambke

Wed. October 21st 2015 @  Fox Cabaret (No Minors)
Tickets at: Live Nation, Red Cat Records
Presented by: Live Nation

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Music: Pop / Rock / Indie
A swirling flourish of strings whirls around a noir cocktail of stately country elegance of classic piano and brass flourishes, as a voice emerges from the stale smoke and dim lights equally trenchant resolve and raw ache. Daniel Romano, slightly behind the beat, offers a chivalrous promise of avengement to the man who broke a tender heart on “I’m Gonna Teach You.”

Time is one thing the Welland, Ontario native Daniel Romano has a slippery relationship with. Not a retro preservationist, nor a post-modern cowpunk, the songwriter Robert Christgau described as having “a voice that’s sometimes so deep it serves as its own mournful echo chamber” embraces classicism and sadness in its extremes to create something beyond nostalgia on If I’ve Only One Time Askin’. Whether it’s the John Prine character sketchery of the miscasting romantic “Two Word Joe,” the Laurel Canyon countrygrass – equal parts Neil Young a la Harvest and the Flying Burritos’ Gilded Palace of Sin -- of “Strange Faces,” featuring Caitlin Rose, or the accordion’n’fiddle heartbreak waltz “If You Go Your Way (I’ll Go Blind).”
“I’ve been known to take some liberties in the sadness department,” Romano admits. “Anything can be reality if you let it percolate in your brain... But you can’t take it to a place where it has literally happened to no one. You see people, you hear people, you know people – and it’s all there!”

All there, indeed. Romano, who got his start in punk bands 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. 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.

That supple relationship to diverse influences gives Romano flexibility.

“The process is very similar to how (Country Music and Songwriters Hall of Famer) Harlan Howard would’ve written. When you get a good line, the song is pretty much done. At least for me. I have all these pieces of paper, and from there, the songs write themselves.

“Every time there’s something new, it gets thrown into the coat pocket. 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. They’re less blast, but even then three lines in, they’re onto a life of their own.”

On the lean honky tonk “Old Fires Die,” Romano is utterly believable, confessing, “I get more happiness from a bottle/ And get more love from a stranger...” like a dry-mouthed Bukowski. The suitor in the lilting title track, tries to lure a working girl from turning tricks with, “Honey, let me kiss your pretty face, And wash away the small remaining traces/Of every man who’s been here in my place.”

“It’s a man being embarrassed about trying to take a prostitute away from her job. It’s pretty real, but it’s pretty liberal, really. And it seemed like an annoying mouthful for a title. I loved that.”

Romano, who is also a visual artist as well as an accomplished graphic designer and skilled leather craftsman, loves the notion of vexation. Like the grain of sand that creates the pearl, he writes daily, throws away much, comes back to some – and is always seeing how far he can push his music.

He is also very much seeking unlikely influences. The lush Bakersfield lament from hardcore country writer Doodle Owens’ “Learning To Do Without Me, is proof. “It was a black sheep on [George Jones’] You’ve Still Got A Place in My Heart, the only one that was good. It was so buried and lost on this record, because people wouldn’t get all the way through. It felt like it needed to be discovered again.”

Recording at his home, Romano takes his DIY to heart. Starting with a ghost guitar and vocal track, he tracks the drums, then bass, adds acoustic guitar – and takes a step back. If it’s a little more time intensive, he creates exactly the texture and tone he hears in his head.

“I’ll sit with a print out of the lyrics and think about exactly what needs to happen. I’ll build from there, deciding I want a fiddle on this line, or steel on that.”

The result is a studied piece of music with room to resonate. Each track is sculpted to be exactly what Romano hears, they also have the handmade and human feeling that gives records life.

“Punk is a double edged sword,” he says of his beginnings. “It’s such an almost only physical thing. The sheer power of the performance with something like the Ramones’ ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.’ Think about the reality of trying to duplicate it with that ferocity?”

Romano seeks intensity from brevity of thought. Not merely clean melodies, but distilling the subjects. “Keeping it concise is the goal. I go through stages of keeping it direct. Even when it’s lofty and poetic, I am trying to be straightforward. I’d like to evoke something. The simpler it’s stated, the harder it connects.”

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.

By the time the album’s closing “Let Me Sleep (At The End Of A Dream)” rolls through, a lullaby for grown-ups that also serves as an elegy for the not yet dead, it is an apt cap for the 11-song cycle. A gospel of the salvation that’s already promised, it’s also a love song for this world and the next.

Like Romano, who exists in many realms at once, Askin’ is an album beyond constraints. Not quite Americana, country, folk, songwriter or pop, it is pieces of each, but ultimately the work of a singular mind. To peer inside, all you have to do is listen.


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