Review – Pharis & Jason Romero

Album: Bet On Love
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Genre: Country-folk

It might be cliché, but music undoubtedly possesses the ability to take you to other places. In the case of Pharis & Jason Romero’s new record, Bet On Love, the listener is taken back home. The feeling of homesickness is the driving force of this album, which coincidentally was recorded in Pharis and Jason’s house-setting in their banjo shop over the winter. This album finds a way to sound complex and lush while also being stripped down and raw. With garden-fresh vocal clarity and wholesome western instrumentation, Bet On Love makes you want to settle down and smell the roses.

This warm, familiar essence is made evident on the album’s very first track, “Hometown Blues.” The song, in short, sounds classic. The main theme of the song sounds like you’ve heard it 100 times over, but still get to experience it for the first time, sort of like a familiar face that you can’t quite put a name to. Pharis’ timeless voice is met by a strong harmony from her counterpart, giving the song a sense of togetherness. “Hometown Blues” is a strong opening effort from the tight-knitted family band.

“New Day,” is perceived just like the song’s title. It’s a breath of fresh air, it’s the dawn of a brand new day. Jason Romero plays a 12-string guitar and makes it sound very distinct throughout the mix. Its twanginess gives the song a sassy edge to it as it quarrels with Pharis’ passionate voice.

“Roll On My Friend” is the first real showing of Jason’s comforting voice, as he and Pharis swap roles here. The soft approach of his vocals are accompanied by sounds from a bold banjo, which by the way, was handcrafted by the duo in the forest near their home. Call me crazy, but you can literally hear its homemade edge peeking out through the mix. Their whole sound has this organic feel to it, and it’s shown with flying colours on this track. “Right In The Garden” sounds like a nursery rhyme. Pharis and Jason have two kids together, and this song sounds like it’d be their favourite one. With a simple hook and a memorable melody, the song is putting me to sleep (in the best way) at 20 years old. “Bet On Love,” the album’s title track, follows suit, but also this time tells an inspiring tale of the power of love. Despite life’s hardships, love will overcome. “Bet on love babe, we will win.”

“We All Fall” is love at first sight. Although illustrating its own beautiful narrative, a listener who may not have time to read into every word can still understand the song entirely with its chilling vocal performance. Jason’s harmonious talent is reminiscent of Bon Iver in this track, who’s basically the king of implementing haunting harmonies into his songs. “We all fall from time to time,” is the main passage and repeated line of this song. The track has this way of welcoming the listener with open arms, offering an unconditionally heartwarming experience.

This album ends on a bittersweet note with “World Stops Turning.” Jason’s words set the tone, providing a grand foundation for Pharis to implement her unique voice into the fold. Together, their voices create sonic bliss, as if their expressions were meant for each other from the very start. The main melody is catchy and comes across like a Phoebe Bridgers song. While the melodies are simple, it’s unmistakenly emotive. This is attributed to the song’s raw, intimate feel provided to us by the group like you’re listening to this song being played in your parent’s old car from your early years. “The world stops turning when you walk out the door,” is chimed soothingly to give closure to the album.

I feel as if everything Pharis & Jason Romero tried to accomplish in this album truly came to fruition on Bet On Love. From constructing their own instruments from scratch in the woods to singing about the comfort of home, it all translates to the listener. It’s as if you’re sitting at a campfire with the band, experiencing these stories alongside them upon listening. The Horsefly, B.C., band has found a way to make their rural personal lives universally understood.

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