Thoughtful, timeless and exquisite – Native Harrow take classic American Roots music to new heights.
Release Date: 18th September 2020
Formats: CD, download, vinyl
One of the great benefits (some would say the GREATEST benefit) of being a music reviewer is that you frequently experience a small epiphany, whenever an album of stunning quality, often by an artist that you’ve never before encountered, falls into your hands. This morning, I had one such epiphany, when I came across Closeness, the new album from Pennsylvania’s Native Harrow.
You may have heard of Native Harrow – Closeness is their fourth album, following Ghost (2015), Soroes (2017) and Happier Now (2019). I have to admit that they were a new name to me and, after having had the pleasure of hearing this new album, I’ve already made a mental note to check out their back catalogue.
Native Harrow are a duo comprising Devin Tuel and Stephen Hams and the sound they make is tremendous, thoughtful, exquisite, timeless and utterly unclassifiable. Their music takes many form. On Closeness there are examples of class Americana that stand comparison with the best of The Band, Laurel Canyon folk, 60s Folk Revival sound, psychedelia, lounge jazz, electronic rock and more.
Aside from the angelic sounds of Devin’s vocals, there’s little information around to indicate who plays what within the duo, but the overall result is a sweet, subtle, laid back and highly enjoyable vibe and a set of well-crafted songs that are far more than a mere vehicle for Devin’s awesome voice. And what a voice it is. As befits the band’s material, there are strains of a mellower Joan Baez, a duskier Joni Mitchell and a more cultured Stevie Nicks – it has the strength to make the listener quiver…
As for the songs themselves, there are ten of them on Closeness, and every one is superb. We kick off with the softly rocking Shake which gives us all an appetizing hint of what is to follow. The Dying of Ages is a soft, slow folk song with a slight edge of psychedelia and nicely meshing guitar and flute parts. It’s easy to imagine Joni Mitchell singing the next track, Some Burns, by the pool, to the background of a red Californian sunset. A luscious vocal is backed by softly strummed acoustic guitars, brushed drums and topped off with some tasteful slide guitar licks.
Same Every Time takes us into new territory. A synthesizer riff entwines itself around a bossa-nova rhythm whilst Devin treats us to an interesting stream-of-consciousness lyric. Carry On, one of the genuinely outstanding tracks on an outstanding album, has a gospel feel. The song is organ-driven, contains a guitar solo that recalls George Harrison’s solo on Let It Be and evokes the sound of The Band at their sepia peak. From there, we move on to the soft funk of If I Could, another awesome track. Twangy guitar and a funky drum line underpin yet another stunning vocal performance from Devin, this time at her Joan Baez-alike best.
For Turn Turn, the band assume the role of a paired back 1950s jazz combo, with plucked string bass, brushed drums, soft acoustic guitar and subtle keyboards providing the backing to a by now, familiarly wonderful vocal. Even Peace is the sort of song that you could imagine Pete Seeger covering at a 60s Newport Folk Festival – it’s tuneful, full of thoughtful lyrics and delivered with true sincerity. The complete song really!
The penultimate track, Feeling Blue, is a soft, mellow, piano ballad and this excellent collection is rounded off by the anthemic, lightly orchestral, closer, Sun Queen. It’s easy to picture a swaying audience, lighters held aloft, singing along in a packed auditorium as the band close an epic set with this number. Well, I can dream, can’t I?
It has been a real pleasure to discover Native Harrow, and Closeness is an album that I’ll be playing over and over for quite some time to come. I suggest that you check it out – you’ll almost certainly want to do the same.
Watch the official video for If I Could from the album here: