Pharis & Jason Romero
Tell ‘Em You Were Gold
Timeless, Intelligent and Classy Canadian Folk Music
I’ve long been aware of Canadian couple Pharis & Jason Romero for a few years now; first reviewing them way back in my ‘printed magazine’ days; so have a soft spot for their classy Canadian Folk songs and tunes; even though Jason’s self-made *banjos are the lead instrument.
This is their 7th album; and was recorded in their re-constructed barn in the quaintly monikered Horsefly, British Columbia.
The charming Souvenir opens with some intricate banjo picking; followed by the pair’s honeyed harmonies on a gloriously dark love song.
Even with a banjo at the fore; Pharis and Jason don’t make ‘happy clappy’ music; theirs is a lot more thoughtful and deep; as is shown with Sour Queen with Pharis taking lead and telling us;
“We’re always older than yesterday,
but I don’t change and you won’t stay,”
How cool is that?
Although Canadian through and through; and I can tell the difference; but there’s more than a hint of Greenwich Village coffee shops in the way they construct their songs; and actually deliver the likes of Rolling Mills and Been All Around This World.
Fear not though; while the template they use is old-timey and even Classic Folk; there’s a biting contemporary edge to each and every song; just don’t be surprised if they drop a Ramblin’ Jack Elliott or Odetta song into their live sets.
Without ever showing off; there are a couple of delightful and labyrinthine instrumentals here that will leave you spellbound; especially the jig Lady On The Green; and the intricate SS Radiant and Five Miles to Town aren’t too shabby either.
Pharis and Jason aren’t ever going to headline Lollapalooza or Glastonbury; but they are very capable of filling a large tent on the other side of the field; and I’m sure when that particular knowledgeable audience come away after hearing Going Across the Sea, Train On The Island and/or the haunting Rolling Mills, they will be the smug ones on the way home, knowing they had seen and heard two of the finest musicians at the festival.
Which now only leaves me to select a Favourite Song as I’m prone to do; yesterday my notes say it was going to be the starkly beautiful Black Guard Mary, which Pharis oozes grace and quality as Jason subtly accompanies her without ever coming close to upstaging his partner; but today I’ve been drawn back to Cannot Change at All, which loosely reminds me of Joan Baez at her mid sixties peak; but is pure Pharis and Jason Romero at its core.
Before I forget; many of these songs and tunes are filled out not just by Pharis and her rather excellent guitar picking; but by their exceptionally talented friends; fiddlers Grace Forrest and Trent Freeman, pedal steel player Marc Jenkins, bassist Patrick Metzger, and John Reischman on mandolin.
Traditional Folk Music has never been my favourite idiom, as a lot can be ‘worthy’ and even ‘boring’ but here; this majestic couple transcend time and genre to create music that will or at least, should appeal to fans of all ages and hues.
*banjos – I once famously coined the expression ‘banjo fatigue’ as I was sick of hearing acts trying to be ‘authentic’ by including this much maligned instrument. Thankfully as the years have gone by; it’s now left to Mastercraftsmen like Jason Romero to show what a fabulous instrument this can be …. when played properly.
Released June 17th 2022