Daniel Romano: If I've Only One Time Askin'

Country revivalist Daniel Romano furthers his career evolution square into countrypolitan territory with masterful results.

Daniel Romano

If I’ve Only One Time Askin’

Label: New West
US Release Date: 2015-07-31
UK Release Date: 2015-07-31

For the last several decades now, some of the best country music seems to have come from nearly everywhere but Nashville. Whether in 1990s Chicago with the insurgent country spearheaded by the folks at Bloodshot Records, the south inhabited by the Drive-By Truckers and their sphere of influence, a host of vibrant Texan scenes or Dwight Yoakam’s modern-day take on the Bakersfield sound, more artists outside of NashVegas’ more pop-oriented sheen seem content to explore the dusty back roads of heartache originally trod by Hank, Willie, Waylon, Merle and a host of others. Add to these wildly disparate geographic points of origin Canada.

Themes of heartache and longing permeate the music of Daniel Romano. No surprise given the era the Canadian country music revivalist strives to evoke not only thematically but also aesthetically and musically. For Romano, it’s as though the last thirty years or more of country music never happened and his most direct influences are those of country music’s heyday, coming from a time when the music conveyed universally relatable sentiments rather than a commercially available lifestyle aesthetic.

Moving away from the twangier elements of 2013’s Come Cry With Me, with his latest, Daniel Romano ups the product values and overall ambition. Where that album felt more akin to Gram Parsons’ approximation of country music, If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ finds Romano taking a more countrypolitan approach to the music, fleshing out his arrangements with strings and lusher production. It’s as though in his longing for a bygone era in country music, Romano is seeking to create a chronologically accurate representation of where his career might have gone had he begun his career in the mid-1960s rather than the mid-2000s.

Opener “I’m Gonna Teach You” immediately presents If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ as something bigger, more cinematic in its approach to a vintage countrypolitan sound than its predecessor. Not only in terms of production, but instrumentation, the majority of which performed by Romano, the track and the rest of the album make a case for Romano as one of, if not the, best traditionalist country singers and songwriters working today. Where before slide guitar and fiddle served as the basis for his compositions, they now are built largely around Charlie Rich-esque piano lines and full-bodied acoustic guitar.

In the grand country tradition of first-person narration, Romano steps into the role of heartbroken everyman on nearly every song here. With song titles like “I’m Gonna Teach You", “If You Go Your Way (I’ll Go Blind)", “Learning to Do Without Me”, and the title track, it’s clear Romano knows how to inhabit the part of the downtrodden country balladeer. Because of this, If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ is full mid-tempo weepers that find him in good company, sounding at times like a combination of Robbie Fulks and Dwight Yoakam while still remaining true to himself.

No more so than on “Learning to Do Without Me,” a classic in the making that, were there any justice in the world, would find Romano a prominent fixture on country music stations. But as it stands, Romano, like Yoakam and Fulks, will likely contain to cull a loyal and highly devoted cult following, a secret cabal united in the knowledge of country music’s best-kept secret.

“No more hurtin’ or cryin’ / Those days are gone/ I finally found deep inside me the way to move on,” he sings on “All The Way Under The Hill". It’s a half-hearted attempt to assure himself he’s past the heartache and sorrow that dominates the rest of the album. Brilliantly arranged and performed with one song flowing into the next, it helps lend an air of continuity and conceptual cohesion to this collection of broken love songs.

Thematically If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ is a triumph, a massive step forward that finds Romano pushing himself both in terms musical and lyrical, looking to get to the booze-soaked heart of country music. Having confirmed it to still be beating, he delivers a set worthy of inclusion alongside the best of the genre’s biggest names. No mere album, If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ is a career milestone for Daniel Romano, one that should see his music reaching a wider audience.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.