photo courtesy of BlogTO
It’s hard to listen to the new solo record from Attack in Black / Daniel, Fred & Julie front man Daniel Romano and not feel his internal conflict. Being a musician – not a rock star, a working musician – is an existence with low ceilings and little security. You are forced to tour non-stop to build a fan base, write singles for the label and if you get lucky enough to write a “hit”, your fans expect the same song or one even better the next time out.
Unfortunately, label and fan expectations have little or nothing to do with an artist’s personal satisfaction and Workin’ for the Music Man plays like Romano’s scathing declaration to the music community; he’s tired of bearing his soul for a soulless industry. Knowing that his art and ultimate happiness directly oppose the goals of the people signing the cheque – his band has already been put through the ringer and made to re-record an LP – Romano’s last two extra curricular endeavors mark even bigger step away from what people expected from the rollicking punk origins of Attack in Black and push him into the sounds and adoration of his friends and peers. After recording folk standards in a garage with only the most minimal of equipment and recording time, finding Romano holed up in his own home studio recording a collection of country songs with the support of family and friends (namely, the vocal talent of Misha Bower of Bruce Peninsula, the harmonica work of his father and help from his aunt) shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
Romano’s frustration is palpable as he sings his way through songs about how music has deadened his soul and as he plays for pennies, the love he once had has eroded to the point where he openly wonders why he even bothers to sing the chorus. It may seem dark and heavy, but even with such bitter sack subject-matter, Romano manages to craft a highly enjoyable record, one that gives fans hope that as long as he keeps writing his songs music won’t ever end up as his creative prison full of hate and resentment. In fact, even as he wrestles with his frustrations, Daniel can do nothing but laugh in disbelief (the slight chuckle he keeps in the title track makes the song). These songs aren’t born from dollar signs, no, the roots of the LP are that of love and tradition and Romano makes the conscious decision to opt for a lasting impact not an immediate one. The delightful melancholy of A Losing Song, the sepia-toned organ and energy Poor Girls of Ontario, the spot-on harmonies on the tear-filled, fiddle laced gem On the Night, the horns that brighten up My Greatest Mistake, and the made for singing along picked duet She Was the World to Me are just a few of the countless moments of authenticity and heart that make you want to keep listening.
There’s a classic lyric from a Jets to Brazil song where Blake reaches out to each and every struggling musician and urges them to keep going, knowing “it’s not what you sell, it’s what you make.” With Workin’ for the Music Man, Daniel has made songs that he can sing with friends, with eyes closed and hearts full. He’s also taken yet another huge step to making himself happy as a musician and with what he attaches to his name.