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Americana singer-songwriter Ed Romanoff is based in Woodstock, New York State, and is a wordy storyteller. A man who has embraced influences of the best (he has attended workshops by Darrell Scott, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Mary Gauthier) his genre has to offer. On listening to some track, my mind strayed to the likes of John Prine and Eric Taylor.
The Orphan Kind was produced by near neighbour, Simon Felice (a busy man)and recorded just a few miles down the road at his barn studio in Palenville, New York. Players on the album to go with Ramanoff’s guitar and lead vocals include Felice on drums, Larry Campbell (electric, bass guitar, mandolin, fiddle, cittern), James Felice (keyboards, accordian, harmonium, vocals), Cindy Cashdollar (steel guitar, lap steel) and Lee Nadel (bass) and others. Never over bearing, I believe the production brings near the best out of Romanoff. I say near best because the record does on occasions become a little predictable (no bad thing when predictable is as good as it is here), in need of a little variation to suit his songs. Then again it could be the balance of songs could have been better selected!
Cindy Mizelle's (E-Street Band) lends her effective female harmonies on “Less Broken Now” and “Coronation Blues” while Campbell’s wife, Teresa Williams puts her talent to use on the artful “The Orphan King” and has an equally pleasing effect on the sublime pedal steel warmed “Elephant Man”. John Prine-esque! Yes, it is that good. Sounds like Prine of old. I had to pinch myself to check it wasn’t the great master. “The Orphan King” is a co-write with Gauthier, and when it comes to reflective tales “I’ll Remember You” is, in comparison to most tracks it might be short, but nevertheless impressionable. Likewise can be said of the soul leaning all-fired up “The Night Is A Woman”.
Getting back to Taylor-esque work, “Miss Worby’s Ghost” has all the attributes. The unique feel and shaping of a song intact. Brilliant! Romanoff has learnt his lessons well. His eye for detail, and I am not only talking lyrics but little muses here and there. As he weaves his finely spun tapestry with astute guile and grace.
While Romanoff penned most of the songs, solo, there’s a handful of co-writes with Crit Harmon; one such song is the wonderful “The Ballad Of Willie Sutton”, and with it enjoying the likes of jaunty simple delight “Without You” (that has Milk Carton Kid, Kenneth Pattengale shine on vocals, guitar and mandolin) and with some of the most assured lead vocals on the record, break-up song “Leavin’ With Someone Else”. Followed by the likewise compelling, and arguably stronger still “Less Broken Now”, steeped in fiddle, pedal steel, mandolin and killer harmony vocals it near blows the lid off. Such is the album, Romanoff is forever coming through with unexpected highs and in mystical ode “The Ballad Of Willie Sutton”, and on releasing some of the tension love ballad “Blue Boulevard (Na Na Na)”. Warmed in three part harmonies, harmonium and classic fiddle (Campbell) he could not have been given better support. For more fiddle (and this occasion you can add cittern and Brian Morrisey’s Bodhran) check out another co-write with Harmon “A Golden Crown”.
Sombre ode “Lost And Gone” is part artful, part soul searching, and part mystical as he taps into people’s fear of war and faith things will be okay roll into one. “Coronation Blues” is a gritty, forceful song that many an act would be justly proud in the world of the Americana singer-songwriter close an album.
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