The title fits an album that conjures up rock’s old kind of magic.
Native Harrow is primarily Stephen Harms and Devin Tuel, who immigrated together from Pennsylvania to the U.K. in 2021. They produced their fifth album, ‘Some Old Kind of Magic’ in Brighton, where they landed, and in rural Sussex, where they settled. This is an enchanted collection of songs that reprises 60’s sounds and sensibilities in a delightfully original way. The big issues of that countercultural era (and any time) – love, freedom, identity – are presented in poetic lyrics sung by Tuel. Her voice is as compelling as any voices of that time including Mitchell, Collins and Ronstadt. Tuel sings and plays along with multi-instrumentalist Harms and long-time collaborator, Alex Hall, on percussion, along other friends. Clearly, this album is a collective effort.
The first track, ‘Song for Joan’, leads with the sound of waves and seagulls and sings of home and identity. “Oh home is in my mind not aligned with where I go, oh I share with you part of me I’ll never know, Never know, never know,” Tuel sings. “Filled our house with treasures, rugs, and old brass lamps, Bringing back the magic it whispers in on time.”
This is followed by ‘Same Old Magic’, a song that has a definite Joni Mitchell vibe, with its intelligent lyrics about loneliness and resignation when one partner realizes the magic is gone and the other doesn’t see the part they played in its leaving.
‘Heart of Love’ is a lyrical recognition of the changes wrought by love and celebrates both the universal and the specific: “Good enough, the way I was set on living, All that’s changed now I awake from the haze”. ‘I Remember’, a lush song of the magic of love, continues the theme.
‘Used To Be Free’ is reminiscent of a ‘60s jazz classic with lyrics that match the sound. However, it is an original take on freedom and is an absolute gem, enhanced by Alex Hall on piano. ‘Magic Eye’ is a psychedelic charmer with interesting instrumentation that would have fit into that long-ago “summer of love”.
Opening with a classic organ and drums ‘As It Goes’ is a 21st-century immigrant song enhanced by violinist Georgina Leach. Leach is heard from again, when strings provide ‘Long Long Road’ a sound reminiscent of an old movie soundtrack, all while the bass line keeps it sombre.
Listing the stand-out songs on this album doesn’t mean all are winners. ‘I Was Told’ is a collection of great lines that don’t hang together and, at times, seems incomprehensible.
The album ends with ‘Find a Reason’, which has a hint of country and more than a bit of gospel which is fitting for the metaphysical questions it poses: “I think about my next life, Who will I be, are you mine? I’ve got a lot of living left to do; Does God understand my truth?”
This is a beautiful album to savour, slowly, one song at a time.