Romantica (from the album Shadowlands available on Last Chance Records)

Romantica has traveled through the proverbial wilderness- the Shadowlands- since their acclaimed 2007 album "America". In the band's press release, Shadowlands is presented as a musical Resurrection, and a needed piece to resurrection is a death. Frontman Ben Kyle confronted a possible musical death with a lengthy debilitating health ordeal eventually determined to be a mold-related biotoxin illness. Adding to medical hurdles, the existence of the band was challenged with expanding families, changes in the lineup, a nearly completed 2011 album that seemed amiss being scrapped, and their former record label faltering. There was a death to familiar ways, and from that long journey, the Minneapolis folk/Americana/alt-country band has reached the musical promised land with Shadowlands, one of personal fulfillment and renewal. Part of that renewal is a new record label, Little Rock-based Last Chance Records, home to many roots rock and twang artists such as Eric Ambel and Tim Easton.

The reintegrated band lineup is a rebirth, infusing Shadowlands with parts lush arrangement and parts delicate instrumentation. Kyle approached the session by surrendering his songcraft to a direction of the whole band. Longtime members Tony Zaccardi (bass) and "Danger" Dave Strahan (lead guitar) are joined by newest members Ryan Lovan (drums) and Aaron Fabbrini (pedal steel). Jayanthi Kyle, sister-in-law to the frontman, has a stepped up vocal role on Shadowlands, leaving an indelible Gospel touch to the production. Romantica spent ten straight days of recording at Shepherd's Hill Farm near Northfield, Minnesota with engineer Brad Bivens (Norah Jones, Kings of Leon, Dan Wilson, Dawes, Robert Ellis) has brought a sentimental album with cosmic Americana flair.

Album opener, "Let the Light Go Through You", sets a reflective mood for Shadowlands with trailing Northwoods pedal steel and a message, ‘Hallelujah, let the light go through you. Let the light shine through the shadows of your mind until your true’. Several of the fourteen tracks are a salve for wounded souls and broken hearts with "Give Your Heart a Shelter" and "After the War" being prime examples. "Harder to Hear" neatly fits as a Gospel-tinged commentary into the dissonance and distractions in current American culture with thoughtful reflection; a non-prechy modern prayer to escape the morass of political, religious and news media excesses. A Flying Burrito Brothers-style tip of the hat is made on "Cecil Ingram Conor," the birth name of Gram Parsons. "Lonely Star" soars from an earlier existence as a demo level track on the band's 2009 live album Control Alt-Country Delete recorded after the long showcase bender at SXSW.

Another of the laments on Shadowlands explores a shameful facet of America's past. Romantica uses "Buffalo Bill" to ask ‘where did all the Indians go?’. Kyle mentioned at the album pre-release shows the inspiration for the song being Bill Cody's visit with a longtime friend in Lanemore, MN that launched the Wild West shows. Kyle's regretful vocals refer to Sitting Bull's role in the show…. ‘did you realize you were glamorized in your own demise?’. Sentimental songcraft about the Twin Cities is on " St Paul City Lights," a sonic reformulation of "Turf Club" which appeared on Kyle's 2012 self-titled solo album. Not to be missed on Shadowlands is the autobiographical "Shandy Bass", a tale of Kyle making daily runs to the local 'sweetie' shop to buy a lemonade/low octane brew for a convalescing older brother. This was in the era when the Kyle family lived in Belfast (Ben was 6 years old). They moved to the United States in the mid-1990s.

Romantica recently performed at the annual Holiday Hangout in Little Rock, Arkansas organized by Last Chance owner Travis Hill, a family of music hardcores from across the United States (and a few countries). Known only to a few before their set, Romantica now remain in the hearts of many who attended. There are many more hearts to be affected by Shadowlands as Romantica set a course to return to the light. (written by Brian DeSpain)

Listen and buy the music of Romantica from AMAZON and iTunes

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