There are so many duos coming out with recordings these days. Is it the economy? Have we entered the era of the downsized old-time and bluegrass ensembles? Or is it just the love for the classic sound of two voices intertwining over sparse instrumentation?
Pharis and Jason Romero joined their personal and professional lives together years ago and settled in her hometown of Horsefly, British Columbia. This is their second album as a duo, although they also recorded with Carl Jones and Erynn Marshall as The Haints Old Time Stringband. Long Gone Out West Blues features 13 tracks that draw equally from the traditional and their original songs.
While there are various ways to assess a duo like the Romeros, one comes to mind readily. While each of them is a fine lead singer, something special happens when the harmonies begin. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, with that certain magic smoldering when their twin voices wrap tightly around each other. Jason Romero is also an acclaimed maker of banjos. While I can’t personally attest to that, it’s clear he ain’t too shabby on the playing end of things either. If you never thought that “Sally Goodin” could sound fresh and new, you might want to give their version a listen. Along with his lead playing on guitar and on a resonator guitar of his own construction, each piece gets an extra lift from his picking, including the gentle original instrumental “Lost Luna.”
This is a quiet CD, as much in mood as in dynamics, and it rewards careful and extended listening. Their originals aren’t necessarily the type that would be mistaken as older or traditional in a blindfold test, but the patterns of their musical influences emerge in the melodies and nuances. The vintage tunes they cover and attribute are obviously the result of careful research and eclectic musical exploration. The recurrent themes of old-time music include celebrating the small, precious, and simple treasures found in life. This CD is one of them. (Pharis & Jason Romero, Box 124, Horsefly, BC, Canada, V0L 1L0, www.pharisandjason.com.)HK