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Hmmm… who are these guys? Well Pharis and Jason Romero are North American old-time musicians who live in a log cabin deep in woods of British Columbia. Pharis is a wonderful, sweet-toned vocalist possessing hints of Gillian Welch while Jason is a banjo picker, vocalist and as is the case with Pharis a banjo maker too. So good is their product Ricky Skaggs and Dirk Powell among others play one.
With them stuck in the old traditional style of playing (1920s-1950s) and singing it is of no surprise that I noted a similarity to Welch, and though her voice boasts a likeness on one or two tracks Pharis and Jason are far from a Welch – Rawlings sound-a-like! Even if their playing and general shaping of songs are directed that way.
There is an abundance of flowing melodies, sibling-like vocal harmonies as guitar and banjo join the couple who co-write the opening track. While Pharis not only writes the title-track, ‘A Passing Glimpse’ but the lively ‘Dad’s Song’, claw-hammer banjo escorted ‘Only Gold’ and the melancholy ‘Lay Down In Sorrow’.
Unlike some acts performing the music Pharis and Jason strike as perfect balance between light and shade. Resisting the temptation to burrow deep into mountains of sorrow. This being where artists offer strained vocals and little in the way of solace.
As for covers, there is a healthy bunch of ‘em. Some though classed as traditional they sound little different to the likes of Uncle Dave Macon’s ‘Hillbilly Blues’ (that has Jason sing a wonderful lead), Karl Davis and Harty Taylor’s ‘I’m Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail’ or The Carter Family’s famed ‘Engine 143. It matters not one jot, when or where the songs hail (they own stand up to them too) the duo do them all justice and that is saying something. One tune ‘My Flowers, My Companions, And Me’ gains an instrumental, reprise and like with all the tracks it is first-class in both formats. On a release that never drags, dips in standard but one that does fly higher times than others —as on the wonderful, free-flowing ‘Where Is The Gamblin’ Man? Oh, by the way thought this is their first ‘duet’ album there’s a couple of projects they were heavily involved in already available.
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