At first glance the irony is thick on Romantica’s America. Penned by an immigrant Irishman who writes a fair bit about his homeland, and delivers his nostalgia in a lilting Belfastian inflection, the only thing ‘America’ about it seems to be the new soil on which he’s singing.
But listen to all this Irishness couched in the musical landscape of historically American country and folk music painted by the swirling pedal steel guitar of Eric Heywood (Ray LaMontagne, Son Volt, Richard Buckner) and the emotive fiddling of Jessy Greene (Wilco, Jayhawks, Minus 5) and it comes clear why Rolling Stone’s Melissa Maerz called it “Americana, (that’s) something more than the sound of the states” You’ll hear fingerprints of true American artists, Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, and Iron and Wine, as well as a few from across the pond such as, Damien Rice, Nick Drake and Van Morrison.
Mariachi horns on a tex-mex train, The National Side chronicles the transplanting of singer Ben Kyle’s family from the green shores of Ireland to the Northern Americas. Kyle’s mother was a hockey player on the Irish national side, and his father a medical doctor before they moved to the United States in 1994. Ixcatan describes an outlaw shooting in the mountains of mid-Mexico in haunting and brooding but sublimely beautiful colors. The gravity of Kyle’s voice hovering upon the weightlessness of Mr Heywood’s soaring steel guitar creates a holy tension that paints death in the most transcendent of lights.
Recorded entirely at home, in a studio built by the band, and almost entirely through one microphone and one pre-amp, Ben Kyle’s lush and effortless, airy vocals set the tone for this oft-times breezy and sometimes haunting, atmospheric record. Guitars, keys and essential harmonies come courtesy of Luke Jacobs. Steady, subtle and often poignant percussion is contributed by touring veteran James Orvis. And as mentioned above, string duties are performed by Romantica’s latest addition, Jessy Greene. who brings a wealth of experience and depth from her history of pop and americana endeavors.
America has won numerous accolades, including two awards from the International Songwriting Competition. PASTE Magazine gave the album 4 Stars and ranked it #58 on their list of the “TOP 100 ALBUMS of 2007”. The Onion, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and City Pages have all called America one of the “Best Local Albums of 2007” and it has been popping up on blog “Best of the Decade” lists as well.
America was the follow-up to Romantica’s debut, It’s Your Weakness That I Want, which sat comfortably in the CMJ top 200 for over 2 months and received sustained airplay on Twin Cities FM mega-stations KQRS and Cities 97, as well as MPR’s influential indie station, 89.3 The Current. It also won numerous awards including Best Americana Album at the 2004 Minnesota Music Awards and two International Songwriting Competition awards: "On My Mind" took 2nd place in the AAA category in 2004 and "Mexico" took 1st place in the Performance category in 2005. An early release of America’s lead track "Queen of Hearts" won 2nd Place in the Americana category of the same competition.
Their latest release, Control Alt Country Delete, was written and recorded in one day in Austin, TX on March 23, 2009. The result is like a poignant and revealing peephole into the writing and recording process as we listen to songs recorded as they are still being written, the band discussing arrangements as they go and even a fleeting moment of internal tension.