by Jim Blum, FolkAlley.com
You may not recognize the name Pharis Romero, but it’s likely you have heard her voice on Folk Alley. Pharis was the lead singer of Outlaw Social and The Haints Old Time Stringband which also featured her husband Jason. She has a dynamic voice with unlimited range and in this setting she is paired with Jason alone. Both play guitar and Jason often doubles on one the old time banjos he also makes. They sing well together and though their songs are often serious their story is sweet.
Jason Romero is from California and the two met at a fiddlers’ convention in his home state. They hit it off and began playing together. Today they live in a really small town in British Columbia where Pharis is from – and what a name: Horsefly. That’s where Jason has also set up shop to build his instruments which are becoming in demand.
Now to the songs. The album opens with “Forsaken Love,” in which a Dear John letter is received. Knowing what it will tell, a decision is made to set the letter aside unread, as knowing the details will only make the truth more painful. Another heartbreaker is the album’s title “A Passing Glimpse” in which Pharis sings as a wife wondering if her husband will eventually lose interest as she grows older. Jason gets a lead on “Hillbilly Blues.” This Uncle Dave Macon classic reveals the loneliness that many men in Appalachia faced a century ago. The countryside was beautiful but there was often no way to meet someone in which to share it. “Dad’s Song” relates an all too familiar story of a farmer’s struggle to support his family despite hard work.
Yes, these are sad songs, but they are engaging and timeless. The harmonies are close and the instruments are appropriate, and well played. Comparisons to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings will be made, but the Romeros have a distinct style which will grab you and take you the place in your heart where hardship dwells and questions linger. It’s not a bad place to be.