Friday, 8 June 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Romantica - Outlaws : Self-released

There are two approaches to listening to this album. First is adopting the role of casual listener and taking ten well-crafted songs on board at face value, although at least two will be somewhat familiar. The alternative is to be versed in the back-story, as no doubt many fans of Ben Kyle and Romantica will be. The fact that OUTLAWS is even getting a release is a testimony to the recovery Ben is making after being struck down with Lyme disease shortly after completing the previous album. By the time SHADOWLANDS was greeted with overwhelming praise, the illness was taking hold and a significant threat to more than just making future music. Therefore, the new record may well just be Ben Kyle’s most important release, even if it has meant resurrecting a number of Romantica recordings from the cutting room floor.

The fact that many of these songs have not previously surfaced is a credit to the quality of material that did make the cut. This is particularly pertinent to three tracks pulled from the Shadowlands sessions and ones that would have been a good fit for this particular album. ‘Lost in the Cosmos’, ‘Do Go Gently’ and ‘Listen to Your Soul’ are the aforementioned with the harmonica-led latter proving the most endearing after the early plays. All three are cool temperate efforts oozing with a sophisticated class.

Apparently, four of the tracks were all recorded for a lost album titled FOR GOD AND LOVE AND WAR. These probably unravel as the most significant tunes on OUTLAWS as exemplified by the two lead off numbers ‘Love in the Winter’ and ‘Dear Caroline’. Joining them are ‘Hold it Together’ and ‘Baby Killed Bobby’, anchoring the final stages of the record and rich in the cultured Americana sound that has been prevalent in the music of Romantica since forming in 2002.

Completing the ten-track collection are covers of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, enhanced by added steel and the George Harrison-penned Beatles favourite ‘Something’. A further familiar voice appears in the final track, which is a live recording of ‘The Dark’ where Ben is joined by Ryan Adams.

Once aware of the back-story it is well worth checking out Ben’s heartfelt postings surrounding the release of OUTLAWS. As the Romantica line-up has changed over the years, he has been the constant and there is serious hope that they can eventually resume a prosperous return to making fresh original music. This collection fills an interim gap impressively and keeps the fire stoked while we await the next move.