Pharis and Jason Romero - Bet on Love
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Bet on Love (Lula, 2020)

Pharis and Jason Romero

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

The fifth release from the Canadian husband and wife duo Pharis and Jason Romero is a pleasing mix of folk and bluegrass with appeal for both traditional and modern devotees.

The title track is a folk ballad by Pharis that features the pair on acoustic guitars driven by her lead vocals that recall Judy Collins with smooth harmonies from Jason. Similarly "New Day" begins with a '60s feel as Pharis sings of the complexities of a relationship ("One of us can be lonely/One of us can be sad/Two can build together and walk hand in hand") and ends with an echo effect reminiscent of more recent work by Fleet Foxes.

The bluegrass influence is most evident on "Hometown Blues" on which Pharis contemplates exploring life beyond her immediate surroundings ("Mama says you go to school and read about a bigger world/How can I believe that it's all there if I don't go?") with Jason on banjo augmented by guests John Reischman (mandolin) and Patrick Metzger (bass). Reischman's mandolin is also prominently featured on the ballad "Kind Girl" and the instrumental "New Caledonia."

Jason takes the lead vocal on "Roll On My Friend" on which he plays his handmade gourd banjo and "World Stops Turning" in which he reflects on moments of insecurity and dread ("Heaven knows when that feeling ends/And so you keep grieving and wanting and not knowing when").

Produced by Marc Jenkins, the album was essentially recorded live in the studio with the tune "A Bit Old School" in particular living up to its title as it was recorded with the duo playing and singing into a vintage 1940s RCA ribbon microphone. The two-time Juno Award winning Pharis and Jason Romero's "Bet On Love" is an entertaining effort throughout.

CDs by Pharis and Jason Romero

Sweet Old Religion, 2018 A Wanderer I'll Stay, 2015

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