Pharis & Jason Romero Prep New Album for May 2020
Bet On Love, the fifth record from two-time Juno Award winners, Pharis and Jason Romero, is a modern folk ode to the reciprocal relationships between place, people and time. Recorded in their banjo shop outside the small Northern town of Horsefly, British Columbia, with the help of producer Marc Jenkins (who produced their Juno-winning 2018 record Sweet Old Religion), the album is quite literally home grown. The songs on Bet On Love, coming May 15, 2020, are inspired by the land the Romeros live on and the lifestyle they have chosen to lead, focused on balance, simplicity and intention. Add in a bustling boutique banjo business and the raising of two young children with the busy life of active musicians, and the balancing act itself becomes an art form.
From the outside, this existence drips with romanticism. Two people in love, building banjos and rearing children by day while writing and performing intimate music by night. Yet on the inside this deceptively simple, elegant life is only made possible by applying an acute dedication to life and art, form and function, music and family. The same focus that has made Pharis & Jason Romero two of the best instrument builders in the world is brought to bear on mastering the acoustic tones of their recorded music. Their new album shines with life, reflecting a deep sense of love and community. Their unique world gently offers up tone and song, bound together in music of transcendent beauty.
The title track from the album features the most personal song Pharis Romero has ever penned and this intimacy reverberates throughout the 11-track record. "New Day" and "Right in the Garden" sound like songs she might sing to her children-soft, warm and full of light-while "We All Fall" carries a gentle lesson. With exceptional control, range, and vocal clarity, Pharis voice soars above these tracks, joined in exquisite, lush harmony with Jason Romero. His calm and slightly weathered voice drifts over songs of journey and heartbreak, their vocals weaving and intertwining like branches on the willows that hang over the creek outside their door. Pharis' songwriting draws from folk wellsprings as well as deep American and Canadian roots. A lifelong student and teacher of these roots, Pharis writes songs that seem old but echo with an ease and simplicity that belies their construction. Jason contributes the sublime instrumental composition "New Caledonia," played (along with "Roll On My Friend") on his handmade gourd banjo, and redolent of the Baroque complexity of early Norman Blake. In a salute to the sound of old-time country music they revere so much, many of the microphones used are as vintage as they are beautiful, with "A Bit Old School" being sung and played face-to-face through a ribbon RCA microphone from the 1940s. Also in line with this stripped-down, traditional approach, the songs, including those featuring guest musicians Patrick Metzger (bass) and John Reischman (mandolin), were all recorded live on acoustic instruments. The end result is rich vocal and instrumental soundscape of an album as deceptively simple and clear as the life that inspired it.
In the end, Pharis and Jason Romero choose the unconventional - touring selectively with two small kids, making banjos in the woods, recording at home in the winter - and they live and sing about those choices with vibrancy and an elite skill set honed through decades of dedication. Their songs are an expression of a hope found in the resilience of community, and of a love born from family, united in the melodies of life.