Pharis and Jason Romero “Bet On Love” (Lula Records, 2020)

Bet on Love’ is the fifth album from the husband and wife Canadian folk music duo that reside in Horsefly, British Columbia. They have converted the banjo workshop into a studio to record their music with the bare minimum of outside assistance, resulting in a genuine home-grown sound that reflects their own chosen place and lifestyle.

The uniqueness of a songwriter is the reflection of their personal journey and the experiences they gain. “‘Bet on Love’ is the sound of songwriters, known more for the telling of stories of others, turning inwards” their producer said. “They’re talking about self love and new hopes for lonely societies. They’re questioning how honest we are with ourselves – are the stories we live the ones we tell to others?”. Together they have captured a gentle sound comprising of their combined vocals, guitar and banjo with additional accompaniment from bass and mandolin. Being a husband and wife duo engenders a sense of intimacy which encompasses the whole album.

New Day’ possesses positively hymnal qualities in both composition and content which is “about wishing for real connection and love, after knowing isolation and sadness”. ‘Roll On My Friend’ is both simple and beautiful with great banjo playing and only Jason singing. Pharis said “ ‘Bet On Love’ is the most personal and intimate song I’ve ever written, most of our songs are about other people; it’s exhilarating to sing such a personal song. It’s a release, a permission to be frank about the outward charade I can create, and what it is I desire – ease, smiles, love”. Overall, the vocals are exceptional throughout, in particular Pharis has rare vocal clarity but the songs they sing together demonstrate that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – which is probably best evidenced by ‘We All Fall’.

The album has a strongly defined sense of place, in this case it is exactly where they live, work and record. They are continuing to develop their specific style, with their writing and recording building effectively on their impressive back catalogue. They have utilised traditional folk musicianship to create a well-balanced record with a mixture of up-tempo songs and ballads that resonate with integrity and love. Sparse is not thin when it is perfectly sufficient, when it has everything it needs which is exactly how this feels. “I love what I have and I don’t mind what is gone” reflects their philosophy well.

Lovingly hand-crafted American folk
8/10

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