Album review: Native Harrow – Closeness

Native Harrow Album review

Native Harrow Album review - Credit: Archant

Fourth record for US folk duo is imbued with sparkles of jazz, art-pop, soul and the American Songbook

Native Harrow Album review

Native Harrow Album review - Credit: Archant

The Pennsylvania duo of Devin Tuel and Stephen Harms returned to the same Chicago studio to lay down this record as they had with its predecessor, spending just six days committing it to tape as 2019 slipped away and 2020 dawned.

The most notable departure from 2019’s excellent Happier Now is stylistically. Where the duo found critical acclaim and touring success last year on the back of a clutch of timeless American folk songs that put singer-songwriter Tuel’s vocals to the fore, in Closeness they’ve diversified significantly.

Recent single Shake jump-starts the record with a pacy slice of anxious uncertainty, Tuel diving right in with the opening fuzzy guitar motif to set a scene of disorientation with a heart “all over the place” amid a looming loneliness.

If I Could, another single, lolls back and forth on the front porch of Tuel’s mind as she sets the world to rights while handclaps, a strummed acoustic and that fuzzed electric guitar imbue it with a pleasing, gentle impetus.

Heart-warming pipes and handclaps make the ‘70s FM-groove of The Dying Of Ages irresistible, and a single shaker is all there is to provide the rhythm for Smoke Burns, a whimsical, slightly mystical love-struck daydream that meanders on floating, finger-picked acoustic and ethereal steel guitars.

The steely reserve evinced in Carry On is a slice of classic Americana-gospel, its winningly simple message carried on a bed of Hammond organ, piano and tambourine. That warming electric guitar gets a solo spot and a gospel choir turn up to bolster the final third, giving Tuel the opportunity to really pipe up for the whole congregation to hear.

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Elsewhere there are accomplished forays into sighing, vintage jazz (Turn, Turn), wide-eyed ‘60s art pop (Even Peace) and expansive orchestration (the magisterial six-minute Sun Queen, which gently draws the record to a sepia-tinged close with strings, horn and piano bolstering strummed guitar and delicate cymbal).

A solid and engaging record.

Rating: 3/5 stars