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.