At its best, “Romance and Medicine,” the new album from local band the Walkaways, showcases the kind of music that speaks to a 30-something crowd at the end of a beer-soaked night. The folk/country tunes feature pedal steel guitar, mandolin, banjo and organ, and it’s clear that singer Todd Daniel, with his raspy vocals, has some tough life stories to tell.
At the album’s worst, the tunes are stock and the recording is dry, as if it were made in a small room with no reverb. Opening track “Last Saturday” is frantic and wild, with Daniel’s normally warm vocals unwieldy and forced. The song’s unimaginative arrangements distract from the album’s real depth, which surfaces later.
The last track, “Every Now and Then,” is beautiful and slow, and Daniel relaxes into his voice and lets the song’s mellow vibe take over. The song is the album’s most subtle and interesting as the band works in polyrhythms that grab a listener and beg for further study. It’s on this song, and also “Ghost of a Man” and “Damn Fortunate Man,” that the solo instrumentalists, such as Bobby Birdsong and his pedal steel guitar, shine and make a real emotional difference.