Published during June 2019, “The Lap of Light” is the second album by Italian guitarist, songwriter, arranger and session man, Mario Romano, who graduated at the S. Cecilia Conservatory in Rome. Romano, who is involved in intense live activity and collaborative work with major artists and labels on the national scene, composed the songs on the album – which his return after a 5 year hiatus – between August and December 2018. Very imaginary and beautiful, Romano’s guitar playing moves from gentle and confident, to simply awe inspiring when you consider the consistent flow of counterpoint and sustained bass and harmonic lines on many of these pieces. He produces a rich sound out of a solo acoustic instrument. There are many great guitar players, and most I know evoke a seriousness and great intensity in their playing, but Mario Romano offers something more.
It’s not just a matter of technical skill (although that’s quite impressive in itself), but his warmth and spiritual depth in playing: you get a real sense of the man, not just a musician but as a person. Furthermore, this is a very clear, good recording. There are nuances that you can hear that you typically do not hear on other lesser recordings.
Listen closely to Romano’s ability to sustain a bass line, his ability to hit harmonics, or the use of his instrument as a percussion interlude. He plays with aplomb and a dexterity many of his contemporaries could only imagine in their dreams.
Having been a fan of acoustic and fingerstyle guitar for all my life, I’m ashamed to say that I had not heard of Mario Romano until now. Luckily “The Lap of Light” has changed that. His performances across the 8 tracks on this album seems like a good way to get a full taste of his work.
The album opener “Visiones” is very cinematic in its introduction, while Romano’s playing unfolds and expands in a track that is lusciously layered. As the song morphs into the somber resonating notes of “Sightless”, you get the impression that Mario Romano’s extraordinary technique could potentially overshadow his incredible writing and arranging skills, but instead, they all fuse into a glorious panorama of sound on this album.
“Fleur De Lys” displays all of Romano’s melodic leanings. The music is complex and beautiful but without sounding too showy. “Ages” is crafted with feeling and depth and yet another example of the great variety in his technique, emotion, and multi-layered melodies which give this album interest long after the first, second, or tenth listen.
The music is heartfelt, deeply emotional and rejuvenating. Mario Romano has an impeccable ear for melody and even when he’s forging all sorts of complexities and tones out of his guitar, the melody takes priority and is never back-seated by technicality.
“I The Empty Man”, is a song that is completely haunting in its composition, while “II Theater” is broodingly pensive but colored in pastoral flavors, which then leads into the sprightly “III Extremo (1st Galen’s Vision)”, displaying an airier and jauntier mood before evolving into a gentler lilt.
Every track, however, is a pristine showcase of fingerstyle guitar music taken down the highway into newer contexts. The closing title track, “The Lap Of Light” completes this introspective journey, again showing off Mario Romano’s ability to transition his compositions from energetic and uplifting to soulful warm nostalgia in the blink of an eye. While melodic and accessible to any listener, Romano’s music is at the same time extremely complex both texturally and harmonically.