Daniel Romano's tunes sound as if he has forgotten what it means to smile.
It's no accident many of Romano's songs are folk-country heartbreakers, however. The Canadian singer-songwriter isn't having any of contemporary country's pop-fused party anthems. No, you cold say he's a throwback.
"The difference between Taylor Swift and what I do is like the difference between The Bourne Identity and Hud," Romano told the National Post. "It's too slow, too black-and-white, too much dialogue. They're like, 'When's someone going to shoot someone in the face?'"
Romano has released four independent folk-country albums, but you're excused if you've never heard of them before. Romano isn't aiming for Billboard success. Instead he's making a kind of music he believes in, the kind he would be proud to play for Buck Owens or George Jones. Filled with steel guitars, weeping strings and snare shuffles that sound like they stepped out of an Ernest Tubb song, it's safe to say Romano has hit his mark.
Not afraid to speak his mind, Romano doesn't understand what has happened to country music.
"What doesn't make sense is why the songwriting is so bad. The production I can get past--it's cheesy and stupid, but if the songs were good, it wouldn't matter. Instead, the music has gone down the drain." Romano intends to rectify that situation on his most recent album, If I've Only One Time Askin'.
Where once Romano could have been considered ironic, even hipster, for emulating the nudie suit, worn by countrypolitan stars from the '60s and '70s who were essentially crossover pop stars, he has rebranded himself with his new album. One Time Askin' is more Justin Townes Earle. More Gram Parsons. The psychedelic infusions even bring to mind Sturgill Simpson at the best of times. Romano even smiles a bit on the album, though it's a wry, twisted-fate smile.
"Two Word Joe" manages to be hilarious and heart-rending all at the same time. And "Strange Faces" brings to mind John Prine. Check out "The One That Got Away (Came Back Today)".
But Romano is no one-trick pony. He's also a graphic designer whose work has been nominated for major awards. Poster prints, album art and logos are all his line of expertise and Romano has produced design for artists as varied as Bone Thugs 'n Harmony to Iron and Wine to, of course, his own albums.
But wait, there's more! In addition to being a musician and graphic designer, Romano is also an accomplished leatherworker, crafting guitar straps for artists like Kathleen Edwards, among others. He tools wallets, guitar, belt buckles, dashboards...you name it.
And if you want Romano to play on your album, craft you a guitar strap, or design your concert poster, all you have to do is shoot him an email.
Which is all pretty throwback.
Enjoy the track way up top, "Hard on You", off the album Come Cry With Me and check out where Daniel Romano is playing near you.