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PHARIS AND JASON ROMERO

PHARIS AND JASON ROMERO
BET ON LOVE

Lula Records Lula-CD-2006

With Bet On Love, British Columbia’s Pharis and Jason Romero continue to burnish their already lofty reputation as leading producers of stellar new songs informed by old-time, folk, and bluegrass music. Showcasing and exploring the potential of Pharis’ lustrous vocals, Bet On Love also finds the couple pushing at the edges of the envelope of their own style. Yet, they never lose touch with tradition.

That experimental urge reveals itself most in the slow to mid-tempo arrangements. The second selection, the co-write “New Day” provides the clearest example. Her ethereal vocals soar over perfectly matched accompaniment. In just that one song, they draw on roots elements to create something original that could be played on AAA, folk, or bluegrass radio.

Despite their influences and instrumentation, the Romeros had no intention of playing rapid-fire breakdowns or fiddle tunes on this project, which includes only one understated instrumental. Sure, we hear Jason’s full, round open-back banjo playing, but picking is a means, not an end on this album. On the ten vocal numbers, John Reischman and bassist Patrick Metzger join Pharis and Jason in as tasteful a quartet as one can assemble.

The seven songs, three by Pharis alone, draw lyrically and structurally on folk traditions. Often succinct storytelling ballads, the lyrics give every indication that each word has a purpose. On Bet On Love, Pharis and Jason eschew everything superfluous and never lose focus to near perfection. (www.pharisandjason.com)AM