Let’s get straight to the point. This is a captivating, almost mesmeric album of the highest quality. That last sentence alone will tell you what is to come during the rest of this review but let’s take the opportunity to fill in some of the blanks for those who maybe aren’t familiar with Native Harrow. ‘Happier Now’ is the third album from singer-songwriter Devin Tuel released under the nom de plume Native Harrow.
After almost 20 years as a ballerina and classically trained singer, she has thrown off the shackles of that suffocating (for her) lifestyle and what has emerged is an artist with not just a silky smooth voice but an uncanny ability to tell stories through the use of clear, unambiguous lyrics.
Tuel herself provides the backdrop. “I spent my early twenties playing every venue in Greenwich Village, recording demos in my friend’s kitchen, and making lattes. I felt very alive then. I was on my own living in my own little studio, staying up all night writing; the dream I had of being a bohemian New York City artist was unfolding. I wanted to be Patti Smith. I was also heartbroken, poor, and had no idea what I was getting myself into. My twenties, as I think it goes for most, were all about getting up, getting knocked down, and learning to keep going. I never gave up and I think if I told 20-year-old me how things looked 9 years later she’d be so excited”.
‘Happier Now’ was tracked live over three days in March of 2018 at Chicago’s Reliable Recorders as Tuel, her bandmate Stephen Harms, along with Alex Hall who provided the vintage mics which help give the whole album a feel of the 1970s Laurel Canyon folk era. But it’s not just a throwback to bygone days; this is a fresh new vibrant voice for today.
The groundwork for ‘Happier Now’ was clearly laid down on her previous two albums (‘Ghosts’ from 2015 and ‘Sorores’ in 2017) but this takes her to a whole new level as the album focuses on Tuel growing up as a woman and finally casting off that restrictive past. This isn’t just another Indie Folk album though; the excellent ‘Something You Have’ is gospel-tinged while both ‘Blue Canyon’ and the title track ‘Happier Now’ could have been recorded by a young Joni Mitchell.
Devin Tuel’s work is very original and yet strangely familiar at the same time and if she continues in this groove and producing music of this standard then there will be more great things to come from this hugely promising artist.