Album Review: Native Harrow – Old Kind Of Magic

Old Kind Of Magic, the fifth record from Native Harrow, presents 10 songs of strong vocals, luscious instrumentation, and soul-searching lyrics. Opening with the sounds of the seaside which inspired them to create new art we are then transported to the mid-sixties American West Coast folk rock era. Featuring a well-established sound, helped by long-time collaborator Alex Hall on drums and percussion, Native Harrow know how to weave stories into songs.  

As befits two artists settling into a new location and home (albeit one they know well from touring), the creative duo of Devin Tuel and Stephen Harms were inspired to produce new art whilst learning of the landscape around them. Developing their sound from their previous releases we are treated to a record that feels both nostalgic and new. Fusing elements of pop, folk, psychedelia, and soul the record doesn’t feel mixed as the vocals from Tuel are a unifying force throughout. The comparisons to Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, and Carole King are well deserved, what better company could you keep? Tuel’s vocals soar and have a very warm quality to them whilst the multi-instrumentalis,t Harms provides a rich soundscape for the lyrics to ride over.

The first release from the record was title track, “Old Kind of Magic”, the bittersweet song about the magic being lost from a relationship “Except now everything’s grown serious and nobody just has a laugh.” The second release takes us on a Doors-esque psychedelic ride in “As It Goes” where we learn of the freedom vthat being somewhere new can give, allowing you to present yourself as you wish. The musical landscape here is strengthened by violinist Georgina Leach who layered in a string section (she features again on “Long Long Road”, layering in a string quartet this time).  

Continuing the psychedelic feel, “Magic Eye” uses a variety of instrumentation to keep the listener on their toes. Initially jarring, the songs has grown on me with further listens. “I Was Told” makes me think of Tim Buckley, though I can never quite get my head around the lyrics and perhaps I don’t need to. 

The closing song “Find A Reason” puts in mind so much of Linda Ronstadt that I’ve pulled out my records to have a listen to later. That is one of the most striking things, how easily this record slots into my love of the music from the Laurel Canyon scene, and whilst Old Kind of Magic could be considered a pastiche, it very much stands on the merits of its members. 

Ulrike Gotts