In the tiny hamlet of Horsefly, B.C. - population 700 - lives a pair of musicians with a pair of extraordinary claims to fame. Jason Romero is widely considered one of the greatest banjo-builders in the world, with a client list that includes Jerry Douglas and Ricky Skaggs. He and his wife, Pharis - an alumnus of the highly-regarded roots act Outlaw Social - also happen to have a vintage roots duo that’s taking off in the folk world.
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Like the second coming of some 1937 vintage county act, the Romeros combine mournful, unadorned lead vocals with top-notch picking, understated harmonies, and a collection of songs so authentic-sounding you’d swear they were plucked off a field recording. The glorious homespun originals are virtually impossible to distinguish from the Romeros’ stirring covers of old time classics. And they perform everything on vintage pre-war Martin guitars and their own splendidly hand--rafted banjos and resonators.
Their debut album, A Passing Glimpse, earned a 2012 American Independent Music Award for Americana Album of the Year and a 2012 Canadian Folk Music Award for Emerging Artist of the Year. It made the top 10 on the Roots Music Report and was the #1 album at American folk radio in September 2011. It was also named one of the best albums of the year by Folk Alley. Ricky Skaggs says it reminds him of the music he grew up listening to in Kentucky.
Long Gone Out West Blues, it’s follow-up, has just been released, and already, it’s received ebullient endorsement from Utne Reader and Folk Alley. Folk Alley called the duo, songwriters and pickers extraordinaire, adding that they “have as much adoration and natural talent for the traditions of American folk music as they do for the intrinsic musicality of their two voices.” Utne Reader said “with effortless harmonies, intricate finger-picking and a refreshing veteran spirit, Pharis & Jason’s second album displays a startling prowess.”
Pharis and Jason Romero never set out to become folk stars - if that’s not an oxymoron. Rather, they are a case study in how humble devotion to one’s craft in time wins recognition from a discerning public.
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