Chrissie Romano Band – Somewhere Along The Way – EP Review
How’s that for an answer to your question?
Folks be scrolling prior to New Years in 2021 would have been wondering where it was that the Chrissie Romano Band went for a moment or two there…then on January 1st they got their answer with the announcement that they were back in action with a brand-new single called “Resilient Me” from an upcoming album called Somewhere Along The Way…and well, here we are! It’s happened – it’s out now!
And I mean this in the most sincere of ways…these guys remind me of my parents’ music, straight up.
HANG ON a second…put down your pitchfork & don’t get stabby – my parents are working musicians – I genuinely mean what I’m saying here…there’s a lot of similarities between the way that Chrissie Romano Band writes their tunes to the way that my own parentals do in their band Stone Poets. That’s not a shameless plug, it’s the truth…have a listen, chances are, you’ll hear it – especially between the way that singers Cherelle & Chrissie reach for that combination of meaning & melody when they write. Is it as simple as this is what you sound like when you’ve got the ol’ husband & wife team? It might very well be! Don’t get me wrong, I like what I hear in both bands, but there are a few concerns in both too; and clearly if I’ve been willing to address those with my own family, you know nothing will stop me here from doing the same. Bottom line is though, Chrissie Romano Band is on solid ground for the sound they’re going for, they’re a group of passionate players that believe in what they do – and that, perhaps above all things, is always something that’s well worth rooting for – you’ll want this band to succeed.
From what I can tell, Somewhere Along The Way technically qualifies as their debut record, though according the details online and as their relationship would imply, they’ve been together for a while now to say the least. Back in February of last year, I reviewed their single “Photo” with warm regards as I was introduced to the band’s meaningful approach to music – a song that presented the core of this trio consisting of Chrissie, her husband Ken Romano on bass, and John Pasquarella on the ol’ drumskins. It made an impact, even with its adult-contemporary based-style…which is…always an uphill climb out there in the scene these days to get out there into the world and find the audience that it deserves. It’s a really, really tough genre to find yourself in…no lie…it’s built on what’s almost an entirely different style of LISTENING, never mind actually playing it! We’re talking about well-crafted tunes that are both ambitious in their ideas and songs counted as a whole, as in from start to finish…that’s the main positives; the tougher part becomes identifying any one single hook that’s gonna be enough to create that spark they need. In a world filled with short attention spans…Chrissie Romano Band is going to have a harder time getting out there right now with the way the people are listening to music, that’s not me being mean, that’s me being objective, and doing my best to make sure they’re prepared for battle. Because when you believe in the material & music, which they clearly do, it’s always worth fighting for.
“Resilient Me” was a great choice as an opener with its highly inviting sound & the welcoming sound of Chrissie’s confident vocals. Love the guitars in this tune too…vastly understated in a way, but chockfull of personality and fantastic tone; the rhythm section is locked down, tight & reliable – they’ll reveal they’ve got all the right pieces in place and an excellent balance between their strengths from the drop of track one on Somewhere Along The Way. Loaded with pleasant vibes in the music, you’ll also notice the signature aspect of Chrissie’s contrasting lyricism, which more often than not, explores a complete array of emotions, as opposed to tapping into just one. The way she writes opens the door for many to come in and listen, offering multiple dimensions and depth in each tune, found in everything from the music to the microphone. All-in-all, you’ll find “Resilient Me” comes out with results that would definitely lead anyone out there to consider this as a lead-single, and rightly so – you can hear the band is into this one, and of course, that’s key to keeping us all listening from here on it, wouldn’t ya say? There are three songs on this record that really help us define who Chrissie really is on this album – I’m not even necessarily saying their my favorites, just truly insightful tunes that show you what she’s about. “Resilient Me” would be one of’em – you’ll get her grit & determined spirit in amongst her soulful sound on display in this first cut – and the others in my opinion, would be “Angel Wings” later on in the lineup, which will reveal her sincerity & empathy, and “That’s Me” that’ll shine a bright light on her fun side. I’m not saying it gives you the WHOLE picture, but it definitely all stacks up and gives us a clear view of who the unique woman on the microphone & behind the music really is – and that connection is always something that counts when it comes to songwriting, which we’ll get into more in this review later on. For now, suffice it to say, “Resilient Me” sets the tone on the record, and gives you insight into the mind of Chrissie Romano & the strengths both she & her band are bringing with them into this debut of theirs.
Clever choices are being made along the way, like the piano accenting the melody of “Hearts And Eyes” – and the pre-chorus, along with much of this second tune for that matter, might even remind you of the legendary soulful smoothness in an artist like Bonnie Raitt at her most delicate, perhaps combined with something like the warmth & comforting style & easygoing sound of someone like Shawn Colvin. “Hearts And Eyes” goes into her history a bit for ya here, and explains much of what she’s been through personally to become the artist she now is today, also explaining that many of those battles with insecurity, self-doubt, and controlling her many emotions still continues on to this very day. Digging deep into her family life, the relationship with her father & vice-versa – you can feel the push & pull of Romano’s thoughts & emotions here…and she’s communicating the constant struggle in a remarkably relatable way that a ton of people are gonna sincerely connect to. In fact, I’d go as far as to say there are a whole bunch of ears out there that are going to extremely appreciate finding this song one day when they need to hear it most…to know that what Chrissie is singing about here in trying to define herself and who she is, is never any easy task for anyone – but none of us are alone in this endeavor. It might feel like it – it might feel like it right there at home in your own life even – but songs like “Hearts And Eyes” are full proof that much of what we experience individually, is still shared between us all on a more universal level as well. We’re not alone with artists like Chrissie that are fearlessly willing to share so much of themselves through their music, relating their own experiences in words that resonate in our souls, providing a level of comfort that confirms Somewhere Along The Way, everything’s gonna be OK.
“My Fault” is a cut I’d be looking at as a potential single/gateway into this record – each time this tune came on through my repeat tours of this EP, it continually stood out for the brightness in its overall energy & neon synth vibes in the finale. Like I alluded to at the beginning of this review, this isn’t an easy record to examine on a critical level or predict whether or not it’s gonna get the attention their efforts fully deserve – that’s kind of the consequence of writing deeper material without pandering. While I can’t say with any certainty that there’s a hook in particular I can point to on “My Fault” that makes it standout, the song overall is excellent, and played in a very memorable way that I believe gives it an advantage over many in this set-list when it comes to pulling the masses onboard. The stop/start chops on display are fantastic & reveal the passion & unity between them – but it also audibly cues our ears into knowing that, despite the inherent seriousness in the subjects running through all these tunes they’ve created, they’re still having some serious fun as well – you can hear that in the way they play “My Fault” without question. Chrissie Romano Band is fully engaged & into this tune – and it’s got the spark that makes the difference. Especially when it comes to the ending of this cut, which ramps itself up over the course of its length, leading to awesome highlights in the harmonies and certainly within the lead-vocals of the main star of the show – Chrissie sounds inspired as she climbs to the heights of this cut. An excellent fusion between the realms of Pop/Rock, Folk, and a more spirited approach to easy listening – “My Fault” almost can’t help but possess an uplifting sound to it – and you’ll find that’s echoed best through the confidence projected in the chorus and Romano’s insightful words. She proves she’s willing to take ownership of her own feelings, thoughts and emotions – and that you should be ready to do the same…it’s a song that tackles accountability in life & love by examining the aftermath.
Production-wise, they’ve got themselves a really great sound on this record they should definitely be proud of – the entire aura of Somewhere Along The Way has a beautifully warm glow to it. Perhaps no better revealed than through the immediately endearing sound of “When Will I?” – though you’ll certainly notice that the contrasting lyricism will take the entire song in a different direction than you’d likely assume from what you’ll hear. I’m a huge fan of stuff like that though personally – I like the fact that if you were to listen to “When Will I?” from a distance, you’d probably assume things are all on the sunny side up – but a closer listen reveals much more depth to the ideas in Romano’s tunes, as always. I remember having compared Chrissie Romano to another famous Chrissie out there in my past review of their single “Photo” – and “When Will I?” has me absolutely standing by that comment; she sounds like the legendary singer of The Pretenders herself when she’s in this tenderly expressive gear she’s in here. Advising highly against stuff like “cashing cheques my heart will pay” and phrases that have been explored time & again throughout music’s history – Chrissie’s got more strengths & uniqueness than she’ll show you sometimes, trading that originality in favor of more traditional songwriting standards. I mention it, because it’s a trap we can all fall into as artists – and now’s no longer the time to play it safe – we want those memorable moments & hooks we know she’s capable of. She sings this brilliantly – don’t get me wrong there – but deep down, I know I’m hearing a lot in this tune that’s gonna threaten to take what can separate her from the rest and slide her closer to that sea of sameness they wanna avoid altogether. Essentially, “When Will I?” is a good tune that’s quite likely to not be complained about by anyone listening…myself included really…I’m not opposed to what I hear, so much as I’m doing my best to remind Chrissie & her talented cohorts to dig as deep as they can to root up that uniqueness in the future. In the context of a debut record, you’d be insane to complain about the overall quality of a cut like “When Will I?” or the tightness of which they play it with – but when it comes to the long term of it all, lines like the one I’ve mentioned and stuff like “through all the rocks…and the roll” – I’m sure it seems like it, but I’m not picking on her here, I’m just fully believing she’s got more in the tank that’ll come out over the years to come. She’ll prove me right, I have no doubt about it. Songwriters are a tough crowd man…there are so many things that are perceived as hitting the mark in the craft that can actually take us further away from the identity we want to establish in our music & art, the sincerity in our material that’s important, and the cadence of saying things how we’d truly say them in everyday life. It can often be that professional disconnect from the personal that gets the better of us – I’m not saying that fully happens on “When Will I?,” but I am saying it’s close enough to be something to consider. It’s the argument of what’s tried, tested, and true verses the unknown of finding out what it is YOU bring to the art & craft…and I highly suspect that’s where we’ll see Chrissie Romano Band make huge strides over these years to follow as they continue to build on what they’ve started here on this debut record.
So here’s where things get a LITTLE tougher to be critical & objective. If you dig into the social-media of Chrissie Romano Band, you’ll find exactly why that is through a description of the inspirations behind their song “Angel Wings” – and it’s quite the incredible, heartbreaking story when it comes right down to it. Based on an insomnia-induced night that arose from Chrissie’s scanning of the internet and finding the story of a young four year-old girl who was unfortunately fighting a battle with neuroblastoma, only to find out after twisting & turning awake in bed all night & getting up instead, that she’d passed on at 7am that very next morning. Inspiration comes to us in so many forms, and this is an excellent reminder of that; not all of the stories we’ll tell in this life are the happiest ones we’ve got, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from telling them all the same. Ultimately, I think it’s an extremely beautiful thing that Chrissie went straight to her guitar & started writing about all this from the moment she found out the terrible news…to me, that says a ton about the admirable strength of character in the woman behind the music we’re talking about here. In knowing the story and what inspired it, obviously the last thing anyone out there in the world is gonna wanna do is hold their feet to the fire on anything that might be or could be improved – these are the delicate fine-lines we walk as critics, some are brave about it, some are not. I don’t really factor any of that in so much as I’ve always just called things as I hear them, honestly. There is a bit of an element in the lyricism that would have me bringing up similar points as I just made about “When Will I?” – but again, in knowing the full details of what’s created this song, it’s much easier to give it the pass it deserves for its inherent sweetness and reasons it was written to begin with. I’m not gonna dwell on the issue, but I’ll sum it up with a quick highlight example of exactly what I mean that just about everyone out there will understand – think of it as simplified as this – in your own life, when was the last time you used the word ‘might’ in reference to strength in a conversation, as opposed to the other one, where you ‘might’ do something later on this weekend? Probably been a very, very long time, yes? Ever? Maybe? These are the choices that end up standing out to longtime listeners – the difference again in between saying what you really want to say, verses writing poetically on behalf of the craft – and of course, I’m always going to encourage artists like Chrissie Romano to go far beyond the surface and tap into the full strength of the emotions she’s diving into – that’s my role in this universe. All this being said, I’m definitely not complaining when it comes to their performance or the execution in these songs when it comes right down to it – there are plenty of positives to work with – and one of them is right there on display upfront through the way that Chrissie has insightfully turned tragedy into a beautiful tale that honors the memory of a little girl gone far too soon. Think about it – depending on the artist, band, and their perspective – a song like “Angel Wings” could very well be devastating – but instead, Chrissie’s found a way to find the light in the dark where most others wouldn’t dare to even try.
“Shaken not stirred” – that’s what I’m talkin’ bout right there Chrissie – that’s the kind of genuine connection we can all believe in – and to me, “That’s Me” became a real highlight for authenticity on this debut EP that gave us perhaps the biggest glimpse into the personality of who Chrissie really is. This song honestly took me right back to my high-school days filled with young love and Lilith Fair tours – and yes, the memories are all good ones. In particular, Chrissie Romano Band reminds me a lot of Canada’s Wild Strawberries here – a band of which, might not have always gotten everything fully perfect themselves for that matter, but always found an exceptionally endearing way of creating music that could melt the heart with its genuine humbleness – and “That’s Me” is loaded with similarly great stuff. In a sense, it’s a bit looser in its overall tightness, vibe, and attention to the rounded-out details you might find in the music & vocals of the majority of this lineup of songs on Somewhere Along The Way – BUT…that’s absolutely part of this song’s charm & endearing appeal – it’s a huge factor in what makes it sincerely connect to us. I don’t need every note to be perfect whether it’s played or it’s sung – I just crave that realness…that ability to create moments where the suspension of disbelief never cracks – and what I hear in “That’s Me” shines bright with the vibrant personality of the woman who started all this up to begin with – you get a ton of Chrissie in this Chrissie Romano Band song, and it’s truly wonderful.
I have to be…careful here…in discussing this final cut “Fool” – because I really, really CANNOT get caught mansplaining what this song is about, lest I lump myself into the same category as many of the men Chrissie is singing about in this song that have constantly held back the female community from thriving as it always should have been. And I ain’t one of’em Chrissie, I swear! I’m an ally! Ask my wife! I can’t change a tire, I can’t fish, I don’t hunt, I cry ALL the time,…aside from my brillo-pad of unfortunate chest hair, there’s almost no evidence of me even being a man as they’re so typically defined to be – and I suppose what’s more is that I’ve always been mighty proud of that. Anyhow – this ain’t about me. “Fool” takes on the gender gap with confidence and undeniable facts…Chrissie makes her case, gives you the supporting evidence, and will have you onboard, because deep down, we all know what she’s singing about here is the complete truth about the crushing way things have been for so very long. Another excellent performance from the band all-around that ends the record on a solid highlight of the unity they share between them as players; I’m probably a bigger fan of the design, melody, and words in the verses as opposed to the chorus, but this is hardly any kind of complaint – “Fool” is a great example of what Chrissie Romano Band is capable of, and the insightful lyricism we know she can deliver as well. I’ll tell ya this much…if you’ve even spent five minutes in this industry or know its shady history, you know that she’s singing the 100% cold hard truth here on “Fool” with noteworthy directness – and it’s because of that directness directly, that we know she’s strong enough to take on any obstacles put in her way as Chrissie Romano and her band continue to carve out their own place in the scene over time. Like I said from the very beginning here – when you believe in the material, the music, and what you’re writing about – it’s all worth fighting for to get it heard…it might be an uphill climb at times, especially towards the beginning, but I’m tellin’ ya, people are savvy, they’ll catch onto an artist like Romano that favors substance & meaning over razzle & dazzle. They’ve got a great thing started here with this debut EP & a ton of positives to build on as they continue to surge forward, gently but boldly, into their future.
Listen to music by Chrissie Romano Band at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0CobgV6LN9bgT5f9jHL8Xg
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