PHARIS AND JASON ROMERO – Bet On Love (Lula Records Lula-CD-2006)

Bet On LovePharis and Jason Romero have released six albums but Bet On Love is only their second collection of all original songs. Their previous albums have won significant awards including two Junos, Canada’s annual music awards. Bet On Love was recorded in the duo’s banjo shop in British Colombia. Pharis is the artistic director for Voice Works, an annual singing workshop and Jason teaches all styles of banjo playing.

It’s no surprise, then, that both the vocal and the banjo playing on the album are a delight. The duo’s voices blend nicely and their guitars and banjo, supported by John Reischman on mandolin and Patrick Metzger on bass, create a distinctive sound on an album I’ve listened to many times over – driving without being urgent, forcing without being brash, the whole feel as melodic as Pharis’ lead vocal. Click through the link below to hear ‘We All Fall’ and you’ll get a sense of how their sensitive interpretation gives them a gentle command of the song.

That’s what you have across the whole album. I’ve played it to someone with more of a rock background and they listened, enjoyed it and made comments along the lines of the album making them re-think listening to country music. Personally, I’d categorise the album more folk than country, but it’s still a pretty good compliment.

There are eleven tracks in total. The opening track, ‘Hometown Blues’, has the bounce of a song like ‘City Of New Orleans’, banjo and mandolin a joyous counterpoint to the vocal. On both ‘Roll On My Friend’ and the title track, they tap into something more yearning, pulling you into the soul of their songwriting; ‘New Caledonia’, an instrumental track, does the same. ‘Old Chatelaine’ rolls, with the two voices singing closely together; ‘Kind Girl’ insists that you sing along with chorus; and the album closes, appropriately enough with ‘World Stops Turning’ – “places and names don’t matter any more/the world stops turning when you walked out the door”.

Bet On Love, an album that makes someone re-think their views on listening to country (and folk) music? I’d think it will do the same for a few more people if they give it the chance.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘New Day’ – official video:

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