[7 June 2013]
Canadian folk duo Pharis and Jason Romero released their debut album Back Up and Push in 2010, followed by 2011’s A Passing Glimpse. Now comes Long Gone Out West Blues, an album that placed emphasis squarely on the pair’s sweetly harmonized vocals and clean, skillful fingerpicking. Instrumentation is minimal here; this is a singin’-and-strummin’ record from start to finish, with guitar and banjo encompassing the whole of the sonic palette. Fortunately, the musicianship is up to the task, and songs like “Lonely Home Blues” and the title track have enough bounce to canter along at a satisfying clip. A handful of traditional tunes like “Sally Goodin” and “Wild Bill Jones” (a song covered by everybody from Peter Rowan to Alison Krauss, among many others) serve to leaven the originals. Some of these, like “Come On Home”, are compelling, but others, like the languid “The Little Things Are Hardest in the End”, fall on the wrong side of the mellow/dull divide. Such missteps are few, though. Overall, this is a satisfying, if somewhat sedate, slice of Canadian Americana.