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Romantica

Shadowlands – 2017 (Last Chance)

Reviewed by Sam Gazdziak

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CDs by Romantica

In a perfect world, your favorite bands would knock out a great album, go on tour for a year or so and then get back together to record the next one. Reality though, tends to step in and make it an impossibility. Personal lives take precedence, band members come and go, record labels create problems, etc. etc. For a combination of those reasons, the Twin Cities' Romantica went seven years without a new album before releasing "Shadowlands," but its return is welcome news.

The band's greatest successes in its previous three albums has been to create a sound that complements and enhances singer/songwriter Ben Kyle's memorable and plaintive lyrics. "Let the Light Go Through You" stands among the band's best songs, with "We Were Young" and "Harder to Hear" standing out as highlights as well. Credit goes to the band - Tony Zaccardi on bass, Dave Strahan on guitar, Ryan Lovan on drums and Aaron Fabbrini on pedal steel - for creating the gorgeous melodies that never overwhelm Kyle's quiet vocals. Fabbrini in particular keeps the songs firmly grounded in the country/Americana realm with his pedal steel riffs.

Kyle's ballads are quiet gems, but lighter, mid-tempo songs like "Shandy Bass" and "St. Paul City Lights" help to add some variety. Somewhat out of nowhere comes "Cecil Ingram Conor," Romantica's wild, rocking tribute to Gram Parsons. Instead of the usual lush instrumentation, Kyle's sharp lyrics (using some imagery from Parsons' own songs) are set against a wild roadhouse band, making it unlike almost anything else in the Romantica catalog. It's a brilliant change of pace; the band's penchant for gorgeous musical landscapes is a proven formula, but should Romantica ever feel like cutting loose, this song proves they have the musicians who are up to the challenge.