Since his reemergence as a traditional country and countrypolitan singer-songwriter, reformed Canadian punk Daniel Romano has managed a handful of increasingly intriguing releases that stand toe to toe with their most direct influences. From the throwback cover image of 2013’s Come Cry With Me to last year’s exceptional If I’ve Only One Time Askin’, Romano has tried his hand at myriad country and Americana styles, each showing off an impressive knack for songwriting. While Come Cry may have bordered on pastiche due to the photo of an unsmiling, mustachioed Romano in oversized cowboy hat and loud, Nudie-esque suit, he has never once come across as anything less than genuine in his approach.

Where If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ saw Romano furthering his exploration of traditionalist country, Mosey finds him at another stylistic crossroads. Given his penchant for shape-shifting and defying simple categorization, another move in a new direction should come as no surprise. From his early years as a member of Canadian punk group Attack in Black through his pop and country explorations, Romano has not stood still for long. That he would choose some amalgamation of his most recent endeavors feels like a logical evolution for Romano as an artist maturing and coming into his own.

From its opening moments, Mosey shows itself to be bigger in nearly every way. From the production to the arrangements – not to mention the cover photo, showing a track-suited Romano with wildly unkempt hair and polka dot dress shirt – to his own ambitions, it’s a far cry from the straight country of Come Cry. Instead, he borrows more than a few stylistic ideas from the production notebooks of Lee Hazlewood. Spaghetti western trumpets, slashing strings and stentorian reverb dominate the Hazlewood-aping opening track “Valerie Leon.”

This increased density of sound and move away from strict traditional country finds Romano moving from song to song without ever seeming to truly settle into one persona, sometimes sounding like Hazlewood, elsewhere sounding like Gram Parsons. It’s the latter whom Romano has most closely resembled on his more straight-ahead country recordings, and with Mosey, Romano has achieved a sound based simultaneously in country and psychedelica. In this he has – somewhat ironically, being Canadian – managed to create the sound of true cosmic American music that feels more in line with Parsons’ original definition than nearly anything the former Burrito Brother managed in his tragically brief career.

Rather than strictly adhering to one over the other, Romano finely integrates each within the next to create a note-perfect amalgamation that owes a debt of gratitude to the stylistic expansion explored by those pushing country and pop music into new and interesting directions at the end of the ‘60s. “Sorrow (For Leonard and William)” in particular could easily be a lost Hazlewood track circa 1968. More so than perhaps anywhere else on the album, the wordplay-heavy “Toulouse” finds Romano alternating between the gruff depths of Hazlewood and the keening, strained vocals of Parsons.

So while these two cast a long shadow over the album, Romano’s stylistic antsy-ness finds him casting around looking for his own true voice. On “One Hundred Avenue,” he adopts a persona that plays like boozy piano ballads-era Tom Waits, all vocal affectation and world-weary characterization. Elsewhere are traces of Dylan (“(Gone Is) All But A Quarry of Stone” and the album cover itself) and even Josh Rouse (“Maybe Remember Me”). It’s a stylistically convoluted approach that loses his voice in the mix. “I Had to Hide Your Poem in a Song” is a sort of a sideways commentary on this change as he sings, “Coward/ My mask is my trade.”

Despite this apparent musical identity crisis, Romano’s songwriting skills remain of the highest quality. Romano keeps listeners guessing with his consistently inconsistent musical choices. There are only a handful of artists operating at the fringes employing a similarly effortless approach to genre dabbling (Eleni Mandell immediately springs to mind). It seems as though any style these performers set their sights on proves successful and could serve as an alternate career path.

That Mosey feels more like an exploratory work than a cohesive album is not necessarily detrimental. It shows Romano looking to expand his sound and push himself as both a songwriter and artist. Such changes and detours always carry with them their fair share of bumps, and not everything will succeed. But where he goes from here will ultimately determine Mosey’s place within his catalog. In the meantime, it’s still an enjoyable listen, if not quite what we’ve come to expect from Daniel Romano.

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