Yesterday would have been my Dad’s birthday. He would have been seventy-two, old enough to have seen the world but still young enough to experience the joy of life. He should have been given more time; a doctor and gracious man, if anyone earned a free pass, it was him. Sadly, cancer doesn’t judge on merit.
But this post isn’t about sadness, at least, not intentionally. My Dad lived his life. When the seemingly never ending stream of well meaning friends said goodbye, they made a point of telling us they couldn’t remember him without a smile. My father defied the odds. He was completely content with who he was, what he had done and what he had. Today is my youngest son’s birthday. He’s two. He doesn’t need a father that can’t find the good in all that he has. Life has a way of helping you persevere, pushing you when you are at your lowest point or teaching you a lesson when when you soar too high.
I often wonder if my love of music was an extension of my Dad’s. Our house was always filled with song. My first introductions to music came from cassettes and vinyl stored in a heavily lacquered cabinet. The names were largely unfamiliar, and inherently uncool at the time. Lightfoot, Willie, George, Loretta, Gayle; those iconic voices became background to our family’s conversations. I knew their stories as well as my own. Years later, like any teenager, I dismissed his taste for more modern sounds. Hip hop and punk rawk fueled the next decade of my life, and his records began to collect dust, but when I was in my late twenties, I remember sitting at home one Christmas and being shocked by the records I saw when I flipped through Dad’s stacks.
Before my Dad passed, we hosted a benefit show in Halifax. We wanted to raise awareness and cash for a cause, but mostly, I wanted to show my father that even though I was powerless I needed to do something to show him I would do anything. When we left The Carleton, after hearing fantastic artists like Jenn Grant, Old Man Luedecke, Mo Kenney, Acres & Acres, Daniel Ledwell and Rose Cousins, (and for the first time since my Dad had gotten sick) I saw his warm smile and familiar glow. He was surprised that people my age could connect with him so effortlessly. He talked about being able to hear every word of their songs and how well they played. He gushed about how talented they were. He told me he was proud of me, not just for putting this together but for what I had become.
If I only got to get one memory of the last year with him, that would be the one.
It’s easy to slide heartache into a playlist, today. The entire country has gone country, to the point that the tears in our beers are enough to turn the hoppiest pale into an off-the-shelf lite, but that shouldn’t discredit the art. I like searching for musicians that my Dad would have loved, and unquestionably, my dad would have loved Daniel Romano’s latest record. 11 Great Mosey Originals is a simple, understated collection of quick recordings. It’s the result of a gifted story teller flying without a parachute. There is no doubting Romano’s chops, and over the last three years he’s developed a character and appearance that highlights the direction he’s moved, but even though his melodies and getups were well thought out and pleasing, for some odd reason they didn’t resonate. Despite the professionalism and obvious talent, they didn’t make me come back.
But this one… wow. Romano proves he is more than rhinestones, ten gallon hats and bended steel. He is a raconteur, one that needs nothing more than an acoustic to drive home his message. When distractions are removed, you are left to focus on the undeniable. The core of Romano’s songs are timeless. The delivery impeccable. Romano is smart; he’s able to turn phrases and refresh emotions that have been dulled from overuse, but he also exposes an element of country that is largely ignored by today’s flock. Humor.
I can remember my Dad loving songs of boastful claims and dirty puns. When Romano sings a country fried reply to Britney Spear’s “If U Seek Amy”, but from the point of view of an aging man in needs of “performance” enhancing drugs, I can picture my Dad laughing. Seemingly silly tales about Chicken Bill or unsubtle sexual innuendos; they are moments that cut through the bitter sting of worlds falling apart, hearts being broken and the finality of the last curtain call.
I spent the last few months of my Dad’s life awkwardly trying to tell him things I now hope he already knew. We’d wait for the good days, the days when he could reply to questions or let a memory escape and make us all smile and remind us he was still the same man. I wish I could pour him a beer and just sit in silence, as we so often did. The biggest compliment - and sentiment of gratitude - I can give Romano, is that I know my Dad would have happily let 11 Great Mosey Originals loop endlessly in the background as we said nothing and soaked in everything.
I miss you so much, Dad.