Pharis & Jason Romero
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Pharis & Jason Romero

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"Voice’s David Innes reviews the new CD by Pharis & Jason Romero, ‘A passing Glimpse’, with more than a passing interest."

Taking time off from building high quality banjos in a British Columbian forest, Pharis and Jason Romero, both already well-known in their own right in North America, release A Passing Glimpse, a delicately simple but emotional debut as a duo.

Drawing heavily on traditional ‘old-time’ sources and with accompaniment unadorned beyond their own instrumentation, A Passing Glimpse is a triumph of melodic and harmonic simplicity.

Their own compositions, credited largely to Pharos, including the outstanding ‘Forsaken Love’ and ‘Lay Down In Sorrow’, stand tall alongside those of The Carter Family, Leadbelly and others.

In delivery, the harmonising is resonant, intuitive and made to sound effortless, never better than on Dottie Rambo’s gospel ‘It’s Me Again Lord’. Limiting the instrumentation to guitar and banjo and featuring Jason’s considerable picking skills in tight, disciplined solos and an inspired instrumental attack on ‘Cumberland Gap’, adds to the back porch organic atmosphere of an album which has been an ever-present in American and Canadian roots charts since its release. - Aberdeen Voice


"Pharis and Jason Romero - A Passing Glimpse"

Banjo maker, Jason Romero and his wife, Pharis, mine the depths of old-time country music in style and substance. They deliver their message in clear and direct voices in their singing and writing. Pharis sings in a style and voice similar to Gillian Welch but more forceful. Jason plays a wide range of guitars and banjos. His command of the banjo is immediately obvious. His guitar playing is tasteful and precise. They live in the old songs, making them new and their own as in “Hillbilly Blues” a version of the old classic “Hesitation Blues” from Uncle Dave Macon. Interestingly, in their approach to old-time with a timeless touch, the banjo is as often fingerpicked instead of clawhammer. They recast Leadbelly’s “Out On The Western Plains” to sound like something Dock Boggs might have done, had he listened to Belà Fleck.

For fans of fine duet singing, get this CD. These folks know the genre and have an uncanny blend that melds into one voice. The songs they write blend with the traditional material. They mold the voices and instruments together to make the old material their own. Everything takes on an introspective and searching quality, dreamlike yet real. Each piece here is a living breathing being and not some rote reiteration of a static piece. Their readings of Karl and Hartys “I’m Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail” and Dottie Rambo’s “It’s Me Again Lord” learned from the Cooke Duo take on a new dimension from their readings. They visit Uncle Dave again for “Wait Till The Clouds Roll By” and the Carter Family for “Engine 143,” ranging from tender to train wrecks, mining the depth of emotions that are contained herein.

Pharis wrote four of the songs here and co-wrote one, “Forsaken Love,” with Jason. The material ranges in content and captures deeply held convictions. As in “Only Gold,” she digs to the truth of a situation and explores the impacts of decision made by the few for the many. The exploration of ideas, in words and music makes this a recording that draws the listener in and opens up the mind and ear to new things. Subtly is the byword. “My Flowers, My Companions And Me” is sung with the banjo played three-finger style and then reprised at the end of the recording as an instrumental played clawhammer on the banjo by Jason with Pharis’s sensitive accompaniment on guitar. The words can be heard in the banjo, the banjo that bounces along and fades away.(LuLu Records, P.O. Box 124, Horsefly, BC, V0L 1L0 Canada, www.jasonandpharis.com.) RCB - Bluegrass Unlimited


"Pharis & Jason Romero Recording Review"

From British Columbia, Pharis & Jason Romero offer a tastefully understated and dependably captivating set of original and classic old-time and roots music on the outstanding 2011 release, A Passing Glimpse. Little wonder it hit the top of the Folk-DJ chart last fall. Including their stint as 2/3 of the Haints, A Passing Glimpse marks their third release. Jason has long been noted as a top open back banjo builder, while she was a member of roots ensemble Outlaw Social.

The title track is one of five strong songs penned by Pharis, but the true beauty of A Passing Glimpse is how seamlessly the originals blend with the carefully (I have to assume from the results) chosen covers. Wearing your influences on your sleeve proves a virtue in old-time music. Pharis and Jason touch all the right basis, pulling from the Carter Family (“Engine 143”), Karl & Harty (“I’m Just Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail”), and lesser known Uncle Dave Macon (“Hillbilly Blues”). On the other hand, the Romeros show their open ears and ability to apply their old-time method liberally with the Rambo’s pop-gospel hit “It’s Me Again Lord.”

A Passing Glimpse finds the couple paired down to focus on their singing and his playing. They have thus produced a gorgeous, ethereal set that is powered by its restraint. Pharis and Jason thus manage to sound fresh and old simultaneously, connecting 2011 to 1927 in a most soulful way. - Art Menius


"A Passing Glimpse - Pharis and Jason Romero"

One might think that a cabin deep in the Canadian wilderness may be an unusual place for masters of old-time southern music to live and work, but Pharis and Jason Romero prove this idea wrong. Not only does this husband-and-wife duo have the reputation for creating some of the finest handmade banjos in North America, they also sing and play old-time and early country music beautifully. In A Passing Glimpse, their debut project on Lula Records as a duo, their talents are fully expressed in a 15 song compilation of both previously recorded and original material.

Unlike many artists who choose to create recordings filled with extra instrumentation, the material Pharis and Jason have selected for their first duo project is performed brilliantly by just the two of them. This album’s stripped-down, bare bones style gives a unique flavor. Their harmonies blend just as well as the sparsely included solos by Jason mix with Pharis’s superb rhythm guitar accompaniment. Pharis contributes four new original compositions, while the first track, Forsaken Love, is the first piece this couple wrote together.

Pharis’s penning of five distinct pieces within this project has placed her own creative measures comfortably beside melodies derived from decades-old recordings which she and her husband credit for their interpretations of public domain works. For instance, the new song and title track, A Passing Glimpse, which deals with the subject of reflecting upon one’s past, fits well before My Flowers, My Companions, and Me, which they learned from a circa-1958 recording of an unknown singer. Other standout songs include Where is the Gamblin’ Man, an upbeat yet alarming story taken from a recording by Alan Lomax, the obscure Out on the Western Plains, and the Carter Family’s Engine 143.

Jason’s excellent banjo work, played without the use of picks or synthetic heads on his own brand of instruments, is exemplified by his take on the traditional instrumental Cumberland Gap, while his talents on lead guitar are also displayed throughout the project. His vocals are also displayed alongside his wife’s as the two perform in a fashion similar to early brother duets to create a sound reminiscent of a 1930s record, only without the crackle and hiss of old phonographs. Pharis does not take a backseat to her husband, however. Instead, the efforts of each performer combine to create a soothing listening experience. Her smooth lead and harmony vocals, as well as her consistent rhythm guitar playing tie the album together.

This recording fits well beside those made years ago by artists such as The Carter Family and Uncle Dave Macon, with newer songs such as Dottie Rambo’s It’s Me Again Lord also performed in this older-sounding style. A Passing Glimpse is sure to help place this couple alongside these historic artists, proving both their first-rate whittling and musical abilities.

More information about these artists and the banjos they craft can be found on their web site. - Bluegrass Today


"Review: Pharis & Jason Romero, A Passing Glimpse"

The bar is pretty high for mountain music-flavored duos these days, with Milk Carton Kids putting out a pair of viral free downloads and Gillian Welch, well, existing. For A Passing Glimpse, Pharis & Jason Romero wrote some exceptional songs while holed up in their British Columbia cabin, and accompany their intimate harmonies with simple but solid guitar and banjo. There are no flashy breakdowns and few instrumental sections despite Jason’s well-known prowess on his instrument; the lyrics and melodies are well-served by this restraint. The transitions between sourced material and originals is seamless, and the hand-made feel of the entire record—Jason is a well-known banjothier and played instruments made in his shop—lends that all-important note of authenticity, the mark of any good old-timey record.

The title track initially has the pair at their most Welch-Rawlings-ish, with the discordant guitar intro calling to mind many of David Rawlings’s guitar licks. But the call and response vocals, bouncy guitar solo, and Pharis’s passionate delivery quickly twist this song into something original. Another highlight is the gentle take on “Wait Till the Clouds Roll By” (an old Woods and Fulmer broadside dating to 1881), where Pharis’s voice takes on the more polished character of Joan Baez. These highlights happen to be two of the guitar-only tracks, and the open character of Pharis’s voice that seems to marry better with the guitar than the banjo. (Jason’s more nasal, and more traditional, delivery fits best with the banjo in the mix, and he does sing lead a couple times.) In between these two tracks, there are any number of standard-quality old-timey songs. An unassuming take on the instrumental “Cumberland Gap” rounds out a record that is further proof that the epicenter of Appalachian mountain music may very well have moved to the Pacific rim.

—Jon Patton (Baltimore, MD) - Driftwood Magazine


"Somewhere in Canada, angels are singing"

The sweetest blend of guitar, banjo and harmonising vocals make this album a must have for anyone who loves traditional "old timey" country/folk songs. Or, for that matter, anyone who appreciates gorgeous music making.
Pharis Romero has a clear sweet voice so perfectly suited to the music, whilst Jason Romero's facility with the banjo marks him as a masterful player as well as a banjo luthier of note. Listening to this album you might imagine that you've dropped in on a fantastic coffee house gig during the '60's folk revival; or picture the gentle strains emanating from a gently swaying prairie schooner or perhaps holding back the unknown terrors of the night as folks lost in the wilderness huddle around a camp fire half way up a mountain. There is more than a hint in this music of continuity and timelessness.

Jason Romero's banjo playing is refined and restrained - I have not a single doubt that he could, if he so wished, fire off any number of lightning fast breaks and hot licks, maybe he does elsewhere. On this album though the true beauty of the banjo is elegantly presented - his version of "Cumberland Gap" is sublime. There's a warmth and richness to his playing, his finger pick free playing causing the banjo's easy stridency to be muted down and it's true delicacy and gentleness to be revealed. The notes trickle out like a stream of quicksilver.

The songs are a mixture of the traditional and new songs written by Pharis Romero which retain that authentic timeless sound. The old songs, such as "Where is the Gambling Man?"; "My Flowers, My Companions and Me"; and Uncle Dave Macon's "Hillbily Blues", generally avoid the already over recorded chestnuts, and the new songs more than hold their own . "Only Gold" is a standout amongst these - it has the true feel of a depression era no-more work song, features a wonderfully elegant melodic banjo tune over which Pharis Romero sings her lyrics like a pure voiced angel in one of the least cluttered and most moving songs I've heard in some time.

The duets "Forsaken Love" and "A Passing Glimpse" are similarly impressive - the latter, which moves seamlessly from chiding an errant lover to a meditation on lost youth, is an outstanding piece of writing, slightly reminiscent of Joni Mitchell around the edges. Quite simply it would be a crime if this album were to linger forever in a banjo music backwater - it must surely be a contender for the North American folk album of the year.

Reviewers Score: 9/10 - Americana UK: Jonathan Aird


"Review: Pharis and Jason Romero ~ A Passing Glimpse"

Pharis & Jason Romero
A Passing Glimpse
(Lula Records)

You may not recognize the name Pharis Romero, but it's likely you have heard her voice on Folk Alley. Pharis was the lead singer of Outlaw Social and The Haints Old Time Stringband which also featured her husband Jason. She has a dynamic voice with unlimited range and in this setting she is paired with Jason alone. Both play guitar and Jason often doubles on one the old time banjos he also makes. They sing well together and though their songs are often serious their story is sweet.

Jason Romero is from California and the two met at a fiddlers' convention in his home state. They hit it off and began playing together. Today they live in a really small town in British Columbia where Pharis is from - and what a name: Horsefly. That's where Jason has also set up shop to build his instruments which are becoming in demand.

Now to the songs. The album opens with "Forsaken Love," in which a Dear John letter is received. Knowing what it will tell, a decision is made to set the letter aside unread, as knowing the details will only make the truth more painful. Another heartbreaker is the album's title "A Passing Glimpse" in which Pharis sings as a wife wondering if her husband will eventually lose interest as she grows older. Jason gets a lead on "Hillbilly Blues." This Uncle Dave Macon classic reveals the loneliness that many men in Appalachia faced a century ago. The countryside was beautiful but there was often no way to meet someone in which to share it. "Dad's Song" relates an all too familiar story of a farmer's struggle to support his family despite hard work.

Yes, these are sad songs, but they are engaging and timeless. The harmonies are close and the instruments are appropriate, and well played. Comparisons to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings will be made, but the Romeros have a distinct style which will grab you and take you the place in your heart where hardship dwells and questions linger. It's not a bad place to be.
Posted by Jim Blum at September 9, 2011 12:50 PM - Folk Alley: Jim Blum


"A Passing Glimpse on many Best of 2011 lists"

BEST OF 2011 lists
?Folk Alley - Top 10 of 2011 (Jim Blum and Matt Watroba)?
KBCS (Bellingham, WA) - Top 10 (on Four DJ lists)?
KVMR (Nevada City, CA) - Best 10 (on Two DJ lists)
?KHUM (Arcata, CA) - Top 10?CJTR (Regina, SK) - Top 5?
Cover Lay Down - Year’s Best Mostly-Covers Albums?
Uprooted Music Revue - 40 Favorite New Recordings?
Uprooted Music Revue - 25 Most Memorable Interviews
?The Old Front Porch Radio Show (WXOU - Auburn Hills, MI) - #5?
Front Porch Bluegrass Show (KPBX - Spokane Public Radio, WA) - #5?
Four Strong Winds (KVMR - Nevada City, CA) - #8?
Natural Beardy - #18?
Tupelo Honey - Best songs of 2011 (KRVM - Eugene, OR) - #14?Gregharness.com - #5

MOST PLAYED OF 2011 lists
?Galaxie Folk-Roots (Canada) - #23?
Folk-DJS List - #28 - Various


Discography

Pharis & Jason Romero - A Passing Glimpse (July 2011)
Jason and Pharis Romero & Friends - Back Up and Push (July 2010)
The Haints Old Time Stringband - Shout Monah (May 2009)
Outlaw Social - Dry Bones (2007)
Outlaw Social - a seven song e.p. (2006)

Photos

Bio

Coming from a thousand miles and a border apart, Pharis and Jason met in 2007 at an old-time fiddle jam. Both had been playing music for decades – Pharis her whole life – and both were drawn to early country, old time, blues, and bluegrass. In 2010 they moved their home and the J. Romero Banjo Company north to Pharis' hometown, the small interior B.C. town of Horsefly. In this wilderness hamlet they build their finely crafted banjos, and write and sing dreamy old time country, the songs and tunes, new and old, they adore.

Writing songs about ageless characters, hard living, loss and love, Pharis’ songs have been played on radios around the world, and she was called a “historical treasure” by the BC Folklore Society. On stage from a very young age with her family's country music band, she was a co-founder of the western Canadian outfit Outlaw Social, an award-winning and innovative roots-folk band that released two celebrated albums from 2005 to 2009.

Jason was a fixture on the Arcata, CA bluegrass and old-time scene, and is "one of the best old-time banjos players I've ever heard " (hearthmusic.com). He's fluent in banjo styles from early fingerstyle to clawhammer to bluegrass, and when not playing banjo, his resophonic and acoustic guitar playing is a distinct texture, melodic and percussive.

Jason and Pharis played with the acclaimed Haints Old Time Stringband, releasing their debut recording, Shout Monah, in 2009. "They play and sing superbly" (fRoots), and Shout Monah was named one of the best banjo releases of 2009 (Banjo Newsletter). SingOut magazine said “This is a very special recording, one that [we]’ll return to time and again.”

In 2010 Jason and Pharis went on to release their concept recording Back Up and Push. This instrumental album of fiddle tunes by nineteen celebrated west coast old-time fiddlers with guitar and banjo back-up earned them the accolade "old-time duo of Canada" (Penguin Eggs).

2011 brought the release of their first duo album, A Passing Glimpse. A beautiful collection of songs lovingly sourced from old recordings or written by Pharis, it's an album of acoustic & National guitars, fingerstyle and clawhammer banjo, and plenty of powerful duet singing. Independing Music Award winner for Best Americana Album, A Passing Glimpse was #1 on the North American Folk DJ playlists, and continues to attract audiences and radio play globally.

Aside from building and performing, they also spend much of their year teaching at music camps and workshops including BC Bluegrass Workshops, Fiddle Tunes, Voiceworks, Fiddle Works, 108 Mile Bluegrass Camp, Georgia Straight Guitar Workshop, and others.