Former Attack in Black singer and songwriter Daniel Romano continues to expand upon his passion for roots music, upping the classic country ante considerably on his gorgeous new album. There's quite a distinction between the sound of Romano's songs here, compared to last year's Workin' for the Music Man, whose folk style and attitude actually bore a closer (albeit quieter) relationship to his punk rock roots. Sleep Beneath the Willow, however, not only acknowledges heavy influences like Waylon Jennings, Lee Hazelwood, and George Jones, it downright captures their jaunty AM production approach and discordantly dark songwriting. Songs like "Time Forgot (To Change My Heart)" and "Hard on You" are awash in old school sounds, from the gorgeous all-female back-up vocals, sharply crafted narratives and instrumentation, which Romano handled all on his own. But while "Helen's Restaurant" is a honky-tonk classic in waiting, hints of Springsteen's Nebraska shine through on more melancholy tunes like "Louise" and "Never a Forced Smile." Fans of Dylan's early '70s experimentation in Nashville will recognize the exuberant sense of discovery in these great new songs. The spirit of grand country music has overtaken Daniel Romano and he returns the favour tenfold.
What inspired your take on classic country?
Just obsession, I guess. It started while I was working on the last record, but I didn't get it down. I almost only listen to George Jones; it's becoming a bit of a problem. I don't think I've gone a day without listening to George Jones in over a year. He's the best country singer ever and he picks the best songs.
Weren't you going to try selling these songs once?
Yeah, I don't consider myself a good singer; I would prefer to write songs for people who can sing and they can project them better than I could. At the same time, that won't stop me from making records because it's fun.
You captured that country thing where the music and lyrics seem to have the opposite tone.
That's my favourite thing about country music. I don't know when that started happening. It's like really brutal lyrics to major chords, or the sarcastic, pretending-to-be-naïve lyrics, like "She Thinks I Still Care" by George Jones. I'm just such a sucker; I love that so much. I can't think of a genre that's as clever as country music. That's why I'm so deep into it. (You've Changed)