I was lucky enough this past summer to be one of about a dozen or so people to catch a live gig with Pharis and Jason Romero in a tiny converted schoolhouse hall in West Dublin, Nova Scotia. I was already a fan the moment I heard the duo’s first album, A Passing Glimpse, which won a Canadian Folk Music Award in 2012 in the New/Emerging Artist category.
After listening to that disc I was expecting something special, but what I was not expecting was a night of some of the best acoustic music I have ever heard in my life.
The pair filled the hall with tight, perfectly wound vocal harmonies supported with some tastefully unique fingerstyle banjo and guitar accompaniment that had the audience captivated until the last note. The latest disc, Lone Gone Out West Blues, captures the intensity of the group’s live act, and other than the lack of crowd noise, could have been recorded at the West Dublin Hall that night.
Pharis and Jason Romero hail from Horsefly where they both make some of the most amazing banjos available today (that is, when they aren’t making music) with their lutherie company J. Romero Banjos. They have also started making some amazing resophonic guitars, which round out the couple’s signature sound on this album.
This album harkens us back to a simpler time in our past; I can’t help conjure up images in my mind of cowboys sitting around a fire, or early settlers singing on the porch of their homestead.
Newly-arranged traditional songs like “Wild Bill Jones” mesh seamlessly with original cuts such as “I Want to be Lucky” and the title track “Long Gone Out West Blues”, where the pair really show off their songwriting mettle.
While many listeners are apt to draw comparisons to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings – Jason’s mellow fingerstyle banjo and resophonic guitar licks paired with Pharis’s unique ability to write songs rooted in a forgotten era – give this couple a distinct sound in the modern folk landscape.
Jason's mellow fingerstyle banjo and resophonic guitar licks paired with Pharis's unique ability to write songs rooted in a forgotten era, give this couple a distinct sound in the modern folk landscape.