Ramblin' Rhodes: Romanoff is great musical storyteller

Ed Romanoff

One of the best things about loving music is hearing an artist take a song that has been recorded scores of times and put a new spin on it with their own interpretation.


That’s the way I felt when I saw and heard the YouTube video of singer-songwriter Ed Romanoff singing Patsy Cline’s 1961 classic hit I Fall To Pieces at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City.

Most artists who have re-recorded the song sing it rather blandly with little feeling. But Romanoff slows the song way down and delivers it with the emotional anguish of a real heartbroken person who has been dumped by his lover.

That’s obviously the way Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard meant it to be sung when they wrote, “You want me to act like we’ve never kissed. You want me to forget; pretend we’ve never met. And I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I haven’t yet. You walk by and I fall to pieces.”

Romanoff also performs the song (with Mary Gauthier providing backup vocals) on his self-titled wonderful new CD that was released on June 26.

Anyone who loves great story songs and great ballad singing in the style of Larry Jon Wilson or Mickey Newbury or Willie Nelson should love Romanoff’s new album.

Ten of the 11 songs produced by Crit Harmon were either written or co-written by Romanoff with most being extremely insightful reflections of Romanoff’s own fascinating life.

St. Vincent De Paul, co-authored with Harmon and Josh Ritter, is really about Romanoff learning the father he knew growing up was not his biological father.

“It was a complete shock,” Romanoff said in a recent call from his New York City home. “I felt like the floor opened up beneath me. I couldn’t ask my parents because both had passed away.”

Through his mother’s address book, scrapbook and close friends, Romanoff found out his biological father had been living in west Texas but had passed away.

“I have come to know his kids – two boys and a girl – who are super nice. I met them for the first time in March of this year. They are musicians and writers. That made more sense. The dad I grew up with was tone deaf, and I thought that I was too. I didn’t start singing publicly until a few years ago.”

Two Yellow Roses, which Romanoff wrote with his producer, tells of a guy who places two yellow roses at a spot on a gravel road where a stranger shot and killed his girlfriend.

“That really did happen when I was in high school and some guy did come along and shoot two people on a lover’s lane,” Romanoff said.

And Lady Luck – about a guy named Gary who was missing after his car was found parked near a river and the keys were found near a tree – also really happened.

“My cousin Gary disappeared in New Orleans,” he said. “I went to look for him, but he was never found. They did find his car in park and his stereo still under his seat. It could be a number of things that happened. My mom said every time the phone rang she thought it might be him.”

And there also is some truth with Breakfast For One on the 5th of July, which Romanoff wrote with Harmon and Gauthier, about a couple who broke up on a Fourth of July night while fireworks were bursting.

“I did have a girlfriend who really did leave me near the Fourth of July,” he said. “She found a guitar player that she liked a little bit more. She’s also a songwriter.”

Naturally I had to ask Romanoff, “Are they still together?” He replied laughing, “Nope.”

Romanoff was born in Hamden, Conn., and played football at the University of Virginia, where he was a walk-on player. It was in college that he first heard singer-songwriter John Prine, best known for his song Paradise, which was recorded by many artists including country star Lynn Anderson and bluegrass music duo Jim & Jesse McReynolds.

“A kid who lived in the basement of my dorm said, ‘Hey, listen to this guy,’ and put on John Prine,” Romanoff said.

“When I heard his voice, it was a shot straight through to my brain. I went out and got everything he ever did.”

After college, Romanoff worked at a factory that sold toilet bowls and Jacuzzi hot tubs, but he quickly learned that wasn’t meant for him.

“I cost them a bunch breaking toilet bowls and messing up motors,” he said. “A friend said he was going west so I went along. When we got to West Virginia, I said, ‘Where are we going?’ and he said, ‘Wyoming.’ I ended up there for a couple of years branding cows and fencing fences.”

He migrated back east and settled for awhile living in Georgetown, Va., and performing in nightclubs around Washington, D.C., before moving more recently to New York City.

To know more about this outstanding singer and songwriter, visit edromanoff.com or look him up on YouTube.


SCOTT BRANTLEY SHOW: Country music fans enjoyed Scott Brantley and his brother, David, performing at the A Day in the Country festival last month. Scott can be seen with Jason Rushton performing at 8 p.m. Friday, June 29, at the Carolina Chill & Grill nightclub, 509 Belvedere-Clearwater Road in North Augusta. Rushton and Brantley also perform with the Dublin, Ga.,-based band Deepstep.