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Different Country: The emotive sway of Daniel Romano

"If I've Only One Time Askin'"

Release date: 31 July 2015
Album of the week
8/10
Daniel Romano 1
14 August 2015, 09:30 Written by Jennifer Jonson
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At the close of “Old Fires Die”, a mournful account of the dissolution of a relationship, Daniel Romano concludes that he’d “get more happiness from a bottle/and more love from a stranger”.

A keening pedal steel guitar and lilting strings are the only appropriate accompaniments to such a summation; which is to say that If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ is a Country album in the most traditional sense of the word. Hints of the greats - Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Townes Van Zandt et al - are audible throughout.

However, Romano’s obvious indebtedness to long-established genre conventions doesn’t render the album overly conventional or outmoded. The Ontario, Canada-based artist has produced such a seamless take on the Country ballad form that he’ll pre-emptively evade any accusations of nostalgia that might be levelled at him.

The separation between songs on If I’ve Only is barely discernable - Romano’s lyrics trace a weary and lovelorn thread across the entirety of the record. Its title track sports a breathtakingly gentle acoustic guitar line, taking a momentary detour into folk territory before swells of accordion and fiddles prevail. The poignant “Learning To Do Without Me” is a flawlessly rendered lament on a lost love, and so is the brass-inflected “The One That Got Away”.

As is customary, the protagonist’s misery is usually of his own making. He manages to drive a string of devoted women away through acts of negligence and contemptuous behaviour. Regardless, he still garners pity as he pines for the loves he let go; on “If You Go Your Way (I’ll Go Blind) he begs, “before you leave me in the shadows / of a love I can’t erase/let me once more gaze upon / the summer lightness of your face”.

In its modern incarnation, Country music has been lambasted for the predictability of its narratives (which include, and are mostly limited to, unabashed declarations of American patriotism, tales of love gone wrong, and sorrows drowned in booze). Romano’s brand of Country is of a decidedly different ilk: the term “authenticity” springs to mind, but If I’ve Only... is more than an effective imitation. Like all great Country records, Romano’s is cathartic - your heart aches for him and with him - and it is this emotive sway that makes the record a success.

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