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DANIEL ROMANO plays Massey Hall with Whitehorse on March 2. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Daniel Romano's third solo album is steeped in the storytelling traditions of old-school country musicians like Hank Snow and Stompin' Tom, featuring beautifully arranged travelling songs about lost mothers, lost lovers and lost hope. Two Pillow Sleeper - one is for him and the other for his former love - typifies his talent for finding unique ways to express his sorrow.
Twangy pedal steel, soft acoustic strumming, shuffling drums, fiddle, female backups (by Misha Bower, Tamara Lindeman and Julie Doiron) and Romano's own remarkable voice - the lowest end of his register will surprise you every time - build each impeccably executed tune into something classic-sounding and familiar.
Yet as genuine as Romano seems about his love of the genre, there's a competing tongue-in-cheek quality that occasionally undermines him: the fake bio, the garish pink-and-brown suit he wears on the album cover, the over-the-top tragedy of his stories, the sometimes too-close-for-comfort mimicry of his idols' songcraft.
Here's hoping he continues in the vein of final song A New Love (Can Be Found), which is contemporary, brilliant and completely his own.
Top track: A New Love (Can Be Found)