Daniel Romano – Sleep Beneath The Willow
A photographer friend of mine, James, sent me an email that said “you might like this” with a link to Daniel Romano’s music.
The accompanying picture had Mr Romano looking like Mick Jones in a Porter Wagoner suit, which appealed to me immediately.
Time Forgot to Change My Heart was the first song I heard (from the album Sleep Beneath the Willow).
I recognized its ancestry immediately – Hank, George and Gram, with the low tonal whispers of Lee Hazlewood. I liked his voice, thought the writing was good and so I listened to a few more songs. An hour later, I had bought the album on iTunes.
There’s a languorous, narcotic swing to the best of his songs that makes me want to sit in barroom darkness, drink misery and drift into oblivion. For some, that might be a negative – for me it is a reason to buy it.
His song There Are Lines In My Face is the sound of pure country heartache and I adore it.
In fact, the first four songs on Sleep Beneath The Willow are perfectly delivered laments of resigned melancholy, with a little Nick Cave darkness and a chorus of heavenly girls to sweeten the pain.
It’s not all tears and regret though – Helen’s Restaurant is a witty rhyming waltz that breaks into an unexpected radio-catchy chorus while Paul And John is a beautiful Irish sawdust and Stout ballad.
There’s a touch of early Dwight Yoakam in his voice, and I hear Roy Acuff and George Jones in his finely crafted writing.
The best artists always take from history, and it will be interesting to see where Romano takes it on his upcoming release Come Cry With Me.
On college-radio, his music isn’t retro, it’s fresh. The college kids may want to look back to the past after hearing Romano acknowledge his influences, but while his record is playing, all they’ll be doing is praising the Lord that Country is cool again.
As Mr Romano has said:
“I don’t see myself as a revivalist. I’m just trying to be pure to it, because country-and-western music has gotten so destroyed. I just want to make it as good as it was, that’s the only real goal.The type of country that I like doesn’t exist anymore. The song-writing is so bad.”
“It was the music my grandparents listened to, and my parents were into country-rock bands such as the Byrds. Growing up, it was always around me.”
Mere posturing and revisionist crooning cannot withstand the harsh, short-tempered acid-bath that musicians call ‘The Road’. Fakes and copyists find the bookings dry up or they are slain by indifference.
Daniel Romano is a fine singer and songwriter who just happens to be a fan of old, classic Country.
My friend James saw him recently when he played in nearby Virginia and, clearly, Daniel Romano can walk the walk:
“The State Theater in Falls Church VA is a converted 1930s movie house. It is far from my favourite venue in the North VA / DC area. It is normally home to a never-ending roster of tribute bands. The high ceiling and poor acoustics can be managed for a full band with adoring fans, but it’s a tough nut to crack for a guy with a just a guitar. I think it would make a great cinema. Despite my reservations about the venue and my lack of interest in the main band, Shooter Jennings, I couldn’t miss the chance to see Daniel Romano for the first time.
Romano came onto stage without fanfare, just a guitar, boots, hat, ray bans and a smile. At first the background audience chatter was unbearable, distracting and embarrassing. Not how I like to greet a guy who has come to sing his stories of heartache and ‘old weird Americana’ (sic). For the small group of us who gathered at the front of house to actually listen, it was pleasing to see the professionalism and polish as he powered on above it all.
Three or four songs in, it seemed that both Romano and the crowd had warmed up a bit and over the course of a 45 minute set, he had us charmed.
“I’m a very nice guy” he was saying between songs towards the end of the set, once relaxed and in his stride. And I believe he is. He is also skilled writer, player, singer and stylist. He has both nailed the genre and added his own twist.
I was lucky to get some decent photos of his show and his management company have graciously used them on his website with my permission.
He comes back to North VA in mid-June and will play an intimate and alt country / folk / acoustic friendly venue called the Iota Club and Cafe. It’s a great venue for him and I know he will get a warm reception. I hope to make it to the show and to thank him for his perseverance with the State Theater gig.
Because he really does seem like a nice guy.”
A wise man once said “you are as rich as you are loved” – so I’d guess that Mr Romano will be moving to a bigger house real soon.
Copyright © 2013 William Henry Prince.
Gig review is Copyright © James Finch 2013. Used with permission.
Photographs are Copyright © James Finch 2013. Used with permission. Please do not reproduce the images without seeking permission from the owner: http://jamesfinch.zenfolio.com