Published Jul 29, 2015Alt-country maverick Daniel Romano's fourth full-length is an Americana masterpiece. Titled If I've Only One Time Askin', the new LP is catchier and more accessible than his preceding 2013 effort, Come Cry With Me, which admirably — but too frequently — adhered to older honky-tonk conventions. The strongest numbers on If I've Only, by contrast, will make even the most devoted of country haters tap their toes. "Strange Faces" and "There's Hardship" are especially hummable, thanks to rising Americana starlet Kay Berkel's accordion playing on the former, and the forlorn matrimony of Natalie Walker's fiddle and Aaron Goldstein's pedal steel on the latter.
But make no mistake: Romano is the star of this show, from the audible heartache in his held high notes to his precise and unshowy guitar playing. Best of all is the rising troubadour's lyricism, which can be shamelessly raw and, by turns, both gorgeously elaborate and needlepoint simple. His chorus on "Learning To Do Without Me," for instance, is unfussy but bracingly effective: "While she learned to do without so many things / She was slowly learning to do without me." Opening track "I'm Gonna Teach You" finds him delivering his lines in a Willie Nelson-esque drawl to a degree of warts-and-all vulnerability that the Red Headed Stranger has yet to attempt, especially on the climactic lyric: "And you're gonna feel all the pain 'til all of your feelings are through."
He trades that level of unabashed hurt for earnest yearning — and intricate poetry — over the tender acoustic strumming of the title track, singing: "Honey, let me kiss your pretty face / And wash away the small remaining traces / Of every man who's been here in my place." You won't hear a more open hearted, impassioned and lyrically rich roots album this year. (New West)