Recording information: The Navy, Ridgeville, Ontario.
Photographer: Justin Morabito.
If you wanted to make a case for Daniel Romano as Canada's answer to Robbie Fulks, you wouldn't have a whole lot of trouble making it stick. Romano isn't nearly as snarky as Fulks, but one can chalk that up to the traditional courtesy of the Canadian people, and he has a faint but similar thread of dark humor running through his work. And like Fulks, Romano has an impressive talent for writing songs that evoke the classic era of countrypolitan weepers, and his dry but evocative vocals are not only nearly as good as Robbie's, their voices even bear a noticeable similarity. What sets Romano apart is the natural, ineffable blue mood of his sad songs, which hit the heart dead-on without ever sounding forced, as well as his impressive studio techniques, all of which are on display on Romano's fourth solo album, 2015's If I've Only One Time Askin'. Romano is a multi-instrumentalist who handles most of the instruments on this album himself through the magic of multitracking (using analog tape, no less), and his touch is impressive; if the synthesized strings sometimes call attention to themselves, Romano's skill on piano and guitar is superb. And when he does bring in ringers, he chooses wisely, while Aaron Goldstein's pedal steel and Kay Berkel's accordion are splendid. Though Romano can earn a healthy chuckle with "Two Word Joe" or add an ironic psychedelic coda to "The One That Got Away (Came Back Today)," most of the time he plays it straight, and he's right to believe in this material -- "Strange Faces," "There's a Hardship," "Let Me Sleep (At the End of a Dream)," and the title track are well-crafted songs filled with broken hearts and prairie soul, and as writer, producer, and artist, Romano doesn't miss a trick. I've Only One Time Askin' shows the Americana scene is still bearing strong fruit North of the Border, and with any luck, Daniel Romano won't end up as a perennial cult figure like Robbie Fulks -- though it would hardly be a bad thing if he could spend a couple decades making great records, just as Robbie has done. ~ Mark Deming