Modern Country is tough to defend. Built on such a rock hard foundation of raw and gritty western blues, sung by raunchy crooners and coarse outlaws, its roots are becoming laughable in comparison to today's Country standard of gel-haired trios, V-necked acoustic slingers, and twinkle-eyed starlets. While Country's dissolving relationship with commercial pop isn't necessarily a new concept, the blatant rejection of its blood for top 40 hooks and suave mediocrity is stronger and more popular than ever. So when a defiant sheriff like Daniel Romano comes strolling through town, it's a breath of smokey air in an over-polished saloon. In other words, Daniel Romano is just what Country music needs right now.
Coming off the steam of 2011's Sleep Beneath The Willow, Romano's revivalist vision of Country is more shameless than ever (see cover art), awakening the tomb of good ol' boy faux-cowboys, grazing prairies, and '60s spaghetti westerns on the wing. Kicking down the record’s dusty swinging door is the proper saloon blues of lead single "Middle Child", where Romano recalls a mother's rejection as a honky tonk guitar and heartbroken female harmonies whisper sadness in your ear. Those harmonies get a chance to shine a silvery sunset on "Just Between You And Me", as Romano and his female counterpart ache the night away in each other's arms. Pure rolling-desert blues are painted in the vein of a Hank Williams or Gram Parsons on "He Let Her Memory Go (Wild)" while Romano and his trusty blues guitar rattle the town in a haunting memoir on love and loss. The town bleeds a dusty trail to the record's most upbeat and optimistic jingle "Chicken Bill", capturing Romano's lively beat poetry about a chicken farmer like a Tom Waits-lite in a set of high-top spurs.
Taking into consideration Daniel Romano's bold transportation back to the good ol' days of Country music in all of its character, sentiment, and charm, a title like "Come Cry With Me" may hold weight as a mournful slogan to a genre he so clearly cherishes and respects, but the songs here tell of a different, more moving story. Throughout the record, Romano loses love ("I'm Not Crying Over You"), attempts to get over it ("He Let Her Memory Go (Wild)"), and brashly confesses total disaster ("Just Before The Moment'). But when all is said and done, Daniel Romano is an optimist with his head skyward toward infinity, revealed by the closer "A New Love (Can Be Found)". Recorded live and stripped down to the bare bones of his gorgeous exposition, lyrics like "Hey mister don't let it bring you down, a new love can be found / Just open up your eyes, it wasn't meant to be / No not this time around, a new love can be found", affirms any doubt about his earnest and heartfelt intentions with the album. All the while, Romano's haunting croon fills the room like the ghosts that influenced him, closing the record on its most tender, fragile, and honest note, and in the process acting as closure to a record that embodies everything that Country music should be.
Damn that cover nails the 50s honky tonk aesthetic with the gaudy Nudie suit and the kitschy western font. Great review and thanks for introducing me to a country singer-songwriter I ain't ever heard of.
And this could be a good year for honky tonk revivalists. Son Volt are releasing a traditional country record this year-fittingly enough called 'Honky Tonk'-and I believe Dale Watson and Wayne Hancock have got records coming out this year.
"And this could be a good year for honky tonk revivalists. Son Volt are releasing a traditional country record this year-fittingly enough called 'Honky Tonk'-and I believe Dale Watson and Wayne Hancock have got records coming out this year."
I... I just can't do it. My entire being vehemently rejects Proper Country music. I don't even really know how to judge country music, it just all sounds the same to me. That's my fault, sure, but I got three songs deep before I had to put an end to the torture. (I put on the new Unknown Mortal Orchestra, though, so you can't be too mad at me, Tornado. ;) )
Haha, fair enough patrick. It certainly isn't for everybody. You should check out the last track though, "A New Love (Can Be Found)", it's the least-country song here, works more like a weepy folk ballad, and is gorgeous. You might like it (or you could just keep listening to UMO ;))