If I’ve Only One Time Askin’
New West Records
Don’t be put off by the groovy ’60s thrift store find cover, or decidedly uncountry moniker of Daniel Romano because within this Canadian native beats the heart of the country purist. While Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson have (deservedly) won accolades for advancing country music, Romano wants to remember a time where men named Lefty, Merle and Johnny ruled the airwaves and stages, flanked by a weeping pedal steel and a flat-top guitar. And praise be to him for doing it on his latest album, If I’ve Only One Time Askin’.
Romano grew up playing punk with such bands as Attack in Black and City and Colour before he created his version of classic country he calls “Mosey”, but whatever you call it, it works. A flourish of strings opens the record with “I’m Gonna Teach You”, with Romano’s deep voice (somewhat reminiscent of Chicago’s Robbie Fulks or Nashville’s Jon Byrd) nestled between a stately piano and mournful pedal steel. This is prime, 1960s country, the type you regrettably don’t hear much of today. It’s the sound of a thousand Buck Owens/Lefty Frizzell songs, with lyrics that remind you of Harlan Howard. Caitlin Rose joins him on “Strange Faces”, adding a rejoinder to the deep, introspective lyrical content- “If I had a room to breathe in, if I had a burning fire/One would surely choke the other, leaving me the same desire”- bro country it ain’t.
To pick moments from this record doesn’t do it justice. It’s a late night, bottle of whiskey song cycle that both satisfies and astounds in equal and unexpected measure, a testament to a time where country music was punk and capable of expressing the emotions of everyday people in a way that touched you deep in your soul. Either you get it, or you don’t. Thankfully Daniel Romano does, and If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ proves it. What an immense talent.