Pharis & Jason Romero “Tell ‘Em You Were Gold”

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2022

A joyful and warm experience.

This album is a great example of two musicians at the very height of their expertise. The sixteen tracks are a mixture of tunes and songs played primarily on banjo and fiddle. The banjos were all crafted and made by Jason himself and he plays them with a wonderful touch and dexterity.

The whole album has such a lovely feel to it, recorded in only six days in a barn in the tremendously named Horsefly British Columbia. It takes you on a journey from the Rocky Mountains to the ocean via trains and boats through ‘Rolling Mills‘. It is a journey that includes real toe-tapping rhythms and gentle laments.Not only do they play together beautifully but their voices blend so well, both taking the lead vocal and duetting on various tracks. The connection they show is very evident throughout.

The subject matter varies. ‘Train on the Island’ is essentially a love song, while ‘Black Guard Mary’ sung by Pharis is about a mean old girl reflecting on a long and troubled life and not caring who she has upset.

The songs on the album would get any barn dance going. Not too long but always varied and interesting. To say this is a homespun record does not do it full justice but essentially that’s what it is. Two talented and connected musicians blend together beautifully to make a joyful warm album.

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