Feb. 06, 2013 - Issue #903: Moment by moment
Pharis and Jason Romero
Chances are decent that you haven't heard of Horsefly, BC, but the tiny hamlet—population 700, to be exact—is home to a pair of musicians who have reached far beyond the community's borders.
Jason Romero, regarded as one of the top banjo-builders in the world, and his wife Pharis, formerly of the old-time act Outlaw Social, are moving up in the folk world as a duo, their debut A Passing Glimpse earning them a 2012 Independent Music Award for American Album of the Year and a 2012 Canadian Folk Music Award for Emerging Artist of the Year. The pair are currently on the road supporting their new album Long Gone Out West Blues, a disc that sees the Romeros further expand their songwriting ability while paying tribute to their old-time influences with some traditional tunes.
"We never want to lose our roots and the traditions that have inspired us over the years," says Pharis, over the phone from the couple's home in Horsefly, where her family goes back four generations. "When people would go into the recording studios in the early days of recording, they would get one take. Some artists, they would go in and record 20 songs in a day, and the skill and passion and creativity, it just comes out in those recordings ... we're really attracted towards specific sounds, and a lot of those early recordings have these sounds and tastes in the arrangements and harmonies that we both really love."
The Romeros write separately, but do so with the other in mind, finishing off the individual writing efforts as a duo. The result on Long Gone Out West Blues is a firmly-rooted sense of place, paying homage to the small community they reside in.
"We live on 40 acres and our neighbours are quite a ways away. We can't see them, but the community is tight-knit and close and has all the same things any community out there might have: all the same problems, but all the same love about it as well," Pharis says, adding this resonates in her songs in particular.
While the duo are busy recording and touring, they also run a bustling banjo-building company, with their workshop doubling as a recording studio thanks to its acoustics. Romero banjos have become recognized around the world for their craftsmanship and tone, with a two-and-a-half year waitlist for one of their handmade, one-of-a-kind masterpieces. Currently, the Romeros produce four or five a month, crafting each completely by hand, right down to the hardware.
Jason began playing banjo approximately 10 years before he started building them, and now he designs and builds a full fleet, from banjo mandolins to cello banjos.
"For us, I think it's a really neat balance because the business that we do, it ties in perfectly to the performance aspect of it," Pharis notes. "We perform with all of the instruments that we make as well, except for the old vintage guitars that we play—we like to play nice, old Martins—but all the banjos and resophonic guitars that we play are ones that Jason has made, so we're sort of thinking about each thing in reference to the other when we're thinking about each aspect of our career."
Fri, Feb 8 (7 pm)
Full Moon Folk Club, $18 – $22
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