Published Jul 10, 2015From the palpably forlorn lyrics, to the mournfully twangy vocals, Daniel Romano delivers his most impassioned and moving music yet on If I've Only One Time Askin', his fourth full-length, out July 31 on New West Records. And yet the new LP almost didn't see the light of day.
The prolific country crooner writes at a rapid enough clip to far outpace the mixing, releasing and promotion of his material. He had penned many of songs on If I've Only One Time Askin' several years ago — placing finishing touches on the gently rousing, fearlessly romantic title track in 2011. He recorded raw versions of the would-be LP's tunes not long after. Then, like any maverick, he dug in his creative stirrups and galloped off to other creative frontiers.
"This industry has too much of a one-track mind," the Welland, ON-bred Americana artist tells Exclaim! "You're supposed to go in the studio, and that's supposed to take months and months. For me, it's a four-day process. But I have to live within that model, or keep moving along, and maybe my entire catalogue can be released retrospectively."
While he's kidding with that last point, Romano earnestly describes his longing to buck against such industry confines. His rhythmic wanderlust even lead him to record a separate album's worth of material after moving on from the early If I've Only One Time Askin' takes, but Romano's label eventually persuaded him to circle back and unearth the alt-country jewels that he'd almost left in the dust.
"I hadn't listened to those takes for a year, and didn't want to, because of the pressure I was under," Romano says of the neglected demos. "Usually if it's old I hate it, but when I listened again, it was clear the songs still had so much spirit."
Having been reinvigorated, Romano returned to the studio with a new band — rising Americana chanteuse Kay Berkel on trumpet, accordion, and vocals, brother Ian Romano providing some drums parts, fiddler Natalie Walker, pianist Micah Hulscher, and pedal steel virtuoso Aaron Goldstein. After a quick one-day mix of the session, Romano began to carefully produce If I've Only One Time Askin', giving the songs a warm, nostalgically sepia tone that would've fit perfectly in country's outlaw era. That process transformed the title track, which almost made it onto his last album, 2013's critically acclaimed Come Cry With Me.
Reacquainting himself with songs like that one made him simultaneously recall why he became a musician in the first place — with bands like Attack in Black and City and Colour a decade ago — and why he continues to restlessly pursue new styles and muses.
"I've never felt 'saved' by music, but I used to play with City and Colour, and he gets that from audiences all the time," he says. "I think that's one of the most beautiful things that can be done. And I'm happy to continue trying to achieve that."
07/24 Newport, RI - Newport Folk Festival - Wildwood Revival (Museum Stage)
08/07-8 Kingston, ON - Wolfe Island Music Festival
08/ 28 Welland, ON - Canal Stage at the Merritt Park Amphitheatre
09/15-20 Nashville, TN - Americana Music Festival
09/26 Waycross, GA - Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival