May 29, 2016

Daniel Romano - Mosey (New West,2016)

Daniel Romano originally played in punk and indie bands growing up in his hometown of Welland, Ontario. He shifted away from punk to a folksy sound in his earlier albums Come Cry With Me and 2015’s If I’ve Only One Time Askin’  but is back to genre-bending on the upcoming Mosey, which releases today on New West Records. Romano writes about a song a day and often records them in his home studio. He self-produced and played nearly every instrument but horns and strings on Mosey. The record is influenced by everything and everyone from Rolling Thunder Revue-era Bob Dylan to Serge Gainsbourg to Lee Hazlewood and Ennio Morricone to Randy Newman and Leonard Cohen.

Daniel RomanoWhatever you think of Daniel Romano, you have to give the guy credit — he’s one artist who’s not afraid of change. After first making his name in the punk band Attack in Black, Romano shifted gears and cut several fine albums with a polished retro-country feel. Now, after 2015’s splendid If I’ve Only One Time Askin’, Romano has taken another detour, and 2016’s Mosey is an engaging exercise in smart pop with a decided ’60s and ’70s slant.
While there’s still a faint twang in Romano’s vocals, the melodies on Mosey sound as if they could have poured out of a portable radio from 1966 to 1975. And while the use of clunky, synthesized horns is a frequent sore spot, most of the time Romano’s arrangements suit the concept very well indeed. From the upbeat Latin accents of “Valerie Leon”and the buzzy jukebox rock of “Toulouse” (with a witty guest vocal from Rachel McAdams) to the organ-driven folk-rock of “Maybe Remember Me” and the soulful lament of “(Gone Is) All But a Quarry of Stone,” Romano has a real gift for clever, effective melodies, and the performances give them plenty of spirit and punch. (Anyone who spent time listening to Canadian radio during the “Can-Con” era will find Romano’s sound here especially resonant.) As a lyricist, Romano is equally witty and heartfelt, plotting the coordinates of heartbreak but not without a wink and a nudge about his own foibles en route.

Recorded and mixed in mono, Mosey sounds period-appropriate (if a bit murky in spots), and Romano’s vocals work well here, even if his tenor seems a bit better suited to country than rock. The album wraps up with “Dead Medium,” a scrappy and exciting rock & roll tune that sounds thoroughly contemporary and suggests Romano could have another new direction in mind for his next project. With Mosey, Daniel Romano leaves no doubt that he’s got the talent to bring us something worth hearing regardless of the approach he takes, and if the sound of this set is something of a surprise, the quality is certainly consistent with Romano’s best work.
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