Thursday, June 3, 2010

Workin' For the Music Man - Daniel Romano

Workin’ For the Music Man

Daniel Romano
You’ve Changed Records.

SCQ Rating: 79%

Although one needs to look no further than Attack In Black to admire the songwriting of Daniel Romano, a more apt reference point lies in 2009’s ode-to-folk Daniel, Fred & Julie. While reworking some acoustic classics alongside Fred Squire and Julie Doiron, Romano tossed a few originals that flowed so effortlessly into the mix, you’d be forgiven for thinking ‘The Runner’ or ‘Your Love’ belonged to the same cherished legacy as (Oh My Darling) ‘Clementine’. Romano played a critical role in that collection’s success and brings that same rootsy confidence to his first solo full-length.

As with Daniel, Fred & Julie, Romano seeks inspiration by looking to the past on Workin’ For the Music Man, gathering new material and session-players while foregoing the previous collaboration’s strict mono-only recording rule. Featuring contributions from the songwriter’s family and loved ones, the disc splits between whiskey-worn country-blues and bare-boned folk, utilizing full-band rowdiness or a lonesome, finger-picked six-string. Album highlights stem from both patches; ‘On the Night’ gives gracious nods to good decisions (namely, the expert fiddle-playing, his girlfriend Mischa's lovely vocals) and breathes fresh life into country’s carved-up bar-booths while ‘She Was the World To Me’ rests heavily upon Romano’s gut-wrenching vocals and a guitar, alone. The variety of songwriting feels wide-ranging - a few even sound as if they were recorded live, although you’d never guess before the crowd starts clapping - but all of Workin’ For the Music Man is painted with the same grit of authentic classics by Hank Williams, Springsteen and Petty.

Lighthearted as the mood of its recording comes off, Workin’ For the Music Man suffers slightly for its ease with the odd track too merry and boisterous to reward repeat listens (the organ-heavy ‘Poor Girls of Ontario’, the opening title track). At their worst, these rare slips sound like well-arranged sketches but, to give credit where it’s due, they also keep the pace breezy and unpredictable. And maybe they just require more listening-time; really, despite its casual, off-the-cuff impression, Workin’ For the Music Man has continued to win me over, boasting songwriting rich with surprises and moments that’ll cut you when you least expect it. As surely as we’ve yet to see the limits of Daniel Romano’s talent, I’ve yet to wear out the good company imparted in Workin’ For the Music Man.

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