This is a really good album. It’s greater than the sum of its parts: the tunes are ok, her voice (Native Harrow is Devin Tuel — nearly Devon Tool, of which a harrow could be an example, though we doubt that’s why she picked the alter ego) is ok and the general air is of a kind of middling folk pop. It also sounds like something you’ve heard before, maybe some Laurel Canyon singer songwriter, maybe a long-forgotten early Joni Mitchell. Add all this together and it’s very good, and has its own distinctive sound.
The internet reports that she’s spent 20 years as a ballerina and classically trained singer, and this is her fourth album. So she’s good at what she does, and this music is probably well within her capabilities.
We also read that she used vintage mics to record it; we normally scoff a little at this “we had real dust flown in from Sun Studios for authenticity” thing but in this case it works. It really does have a splendid early 70s feel.
We think the main reason for its general excellence is that she and the band are just really good and can produce this sort of music standing on their collective heads (while doing the Times crossword). This collective ability is perhaps what gives the music such a relaxed feel. It’s not music that suggests being relaxed or evokes relaxing images; it just is very laid back. They don’t play quietly or anything, it’s just super chilled.
There’s not a massive amount of variation. Opener Can’t Go On Like This kicks off in lively fashion with snare skips and an urgent riff, all of which falls off as Tuel’s vocals come in, whereupon it all just chills. Early standout How You Do Things launches off with a clippoty clop beat, and then vocals. The song is elevated by the bass which wanders all over the shop as the rest of the band takes it steady and sticks to one thing.
Blue Canyon is next up, gentle country folk; anyone else would count this as a good song but it’s one of the weaker ones here. The title track follows; it opens with bass guitar repeating what sounds like morse code until the band comes in; as it’s all very relaxed so they don’t crash in, more like wander in out of the sun for a sit-down, and as if to say “that’s not relaxed, THIS is relaxed.
Hard To Take is even more laid back. For Something You Have a keyboard player moseys on in to add a bluesy feel.
Something of a delight. Native Harrow manages to sound both familiar and original at the same time. For fans of folk, pop and 70s classics.
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