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Ed Romanoff

Orphan King – 2018 (Pinerock)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Ed Romanoff

Arriving four years after his eponymous debut, "The Orphan King" affirms the fact that Ed Romanoff is an artist worth reckoning with. Granted, Romanoff has followed an unlikely trajectory up until now. Prior to a belated start making music only after he had entered his 40s, he spent his time at a series of decidedly odd jobs, including a stint stacking toilets in North Carolina and branding cattle in the wilds of Wyoming. Nevertheless, that circuitous route that led to his current career proved fortuitous as far as giving him a perspective on what it means to share certain stories and then offer observations from a wellspring of human experience.

That said, the new album shapes up as a song cycle of sorts, a series of stories that unfold almost as if they're allegories, all pensive musings shared with a first person perspective. The titles may seem strange - "Miss Worby's Ghost," "Lost and Gone," "A Golden Crown" and the like - but it quickly becomes clear that Romanoff is relating certain truths that are illuminated from within, and that however distinct his characters, he himself is actually inhabiting them in kind. It's no wonder that there's a similarity in sound to John Prine, a despondent tone that can come to the fore through a sad ballad like the title track, but which also resides below the surface on every selection besides. It's a sound that's cast with full sobriety, but a resonate one nonetheless.

To his credit, Romanoff found a superb support crew to help bring those notions to fruition - The Felice brothers, Rachel Yamagata, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, among them. The adroit execution and sense of foreboding and finesse drive these melodies and give the entire album a feeling of cohesion,both in concept and creation. Consider this a striking venture.