Daniel Romano. Mosey. New West Records.

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Mosey, an American equivalent perhaps of the French flaneur, a leisurely amble drinking in the atmosphere of the surroundings. God knows where Daniel Romano’s been wandering of late but his latest adventure, which casts aside any lingering memories of his Nudie suited George Jones fan era certainly lives up to his definition of the genre he has invented. He explained his vision of Mosey in a recent interview as, “It means a lot of things, I guess. Mostly, just keeping away from any kind of boys’ club that I don’t want to be part of, that I might get lumped into just from ignorance. Sometimes you have to set your own ground in order not to be buried in something that doesn’t represent you. But people feel they have to put you in a category.”

Fair enough, it would be a brave man who would lump this record into one category (the irony of this being an Americana based blog is not missed), but it’s folk who know Romano through his excellent reboots of classic country and countrypolitan sounds who will be reading this. In addition, despite Mosey being a singularly Daniel Romano album, it comes trailing clouds of influences, his moseying apparently allowing him time to wallow in various genres and styles all the while indulging in some grand nostalgia.

Recorded in mono with Romano playing all instruments (aside from piano, strings and horns) the album is a kaleidoscopic whirl of sounds. A mixed metaphor perhaps but aside from the retro music here there’s a fine cinematic feel to many of the songs with Romano stirring up visions of spaghetti westerns and swinging London and there’s a definite Bollywood touch to the opening number Valerie Leon. Leon, a Hammer horror starlet, Bond girl and (in the UK) famous for gloriously dated TV ads for Hi Karate aftershave, is an odd totem to hang a song on (and she’s missing from the video) but the mash up of Bollywood and Italian sixties pop (a la Sacri Cuori on Delone with a touch of Morricone added) on top of a supremely melodic hook laden pop song is sublime. Throughout the album Romano hits on those sixties mavericks who had the knack of producing hits that were just a touch, well, kinky. Lee Hazlewood and Serge Gainsbourg come to mind, Toulouse, a wonderfully pun filled number recalls Hazlewood’s duets with Nancy Sinatra (with Rachel McAdams in the Nancy role) while Calexico’s update of Hazlewood is recalled on the widescreen horn driven vista of Sorrow (For Leonard and William), the title perhaps a joke, Leonard and William perhaps Nimoy and Shatner? Meanwhile Mr. E Me is a brassy pop revision of The Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil.

The album is a musical maze with twists and turns. The heyday of American pop psychedelia as filtered through the Brill building is captured on the astonishing brio of Maybe Remember Me and The Monkees like grandiosity of Hunger Is A Dream You Die In, a grand canyon of a song. Another figure from the sixties looms large on (Gone Is) All But A Quarry of Stone but in Romano’s skewed wormhole of time here he recalls Dylan revisiting his roots with a song that could have come from Time Out of Mind with a fantastic ersatz Garth Hudson organ solo. Meanwhile the slow blues burn of I Had To Hide Your Poem In A Song is like a fourth formers attempt at a Dylan song, portentous perhaps but delivered with some fury.

As on his last album, If I’ve Only One Time Askin’, Romano adds musical interludes after several of the songs, brief snippets of Mosey music (I suppose) that support the soundtrack aspect of the album with Tarantino like flashes of twanged guitar and exotic choruses. It all adds up to an intoxicating whole, an album to wander into and attempt to wander out of. Tellingly Romano seems to reference the author of the gnomic novel The Magus on his song The Collector, an earlier John Fowles book from the sixties. Here a butterfly collector incarcerates the girl of his dreams and Romano cloaks the song in a cocoon of gilded sixties menace recalling the work of John Barry and his glacial keyboard sound.
Mosey is an audacious and invigorating album, Romano blasting through preconceptions, digging into the past and blowing it up into an HD reality. He starts a European tour today with a show in Glasgow this Friday at The Classic Grand. Dates here

 

 

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