Deep into inner city Bristol, flanking the famous Bearpit, sits The Golden Lion pub. The Lion prides itself on its musical heritage – framed photos of Elvis adorn the walls, alongside previous performers and patrons of this americana flavoured establishment. On entry, visitors are confronted by an imposing bar, complete with longhorns and lonestars. Having established that, Devon Tuel and Stephen Harms, here on in to be known by their performing moniker ‘Native Harrow’, were deep in discussion with the evening’s sound engineer, a charming gentleman borrowed for the evening from the nearby Mother’s Ruin venue. Pale ales were purchased and introductions made.
The first thing to say is that, despite the delay due to sound issues, these consummate professionals (including the sound guy) kept plugging away until everything fell nicely into place. The other point to be made, sadly, was the lack of attendance in the stage area, most of the turn out keeping to the bar area – no reflection on Native Harrow who performed with aplomb. The stage was small, but then the band are only two so some might say it was the obvious place for them to ply their trade. It’s plain from the start that Devon Tuel’s classically trained voice is the big weapon here, although Harms is also a talented multi-instrumentalist.
Tonight’s set was largely made up of songs from the new album ‘Happier Now‘, starting with ‘Can’t Go On‘, a melancholy trip which showcases that voice, followed by a trip to California in the shape of ‘Blue Canyon‘. Happily, the audience numbers were swelling somewhat by now and they were treated to a couple of numbers from the duo’s debut album ‘Sorores‘ in the shape of ‘How Long‘ and ‘For Nothing‘, by which time the raw power of Tuel’s voice was attracting more attention. Harms took his turn next during ‘Too Many Troubles‘, a wonderful song during which he rested his keyboard on his snare, shook a percussion and damn near became the band himself.
‘Hudson‘ was poignant with its line, “Are there devils in your head?”, while during ‘Tennessee River‘ you are left with the feeling that, even in front of this beery Bristol crowd, Native Harrow are miles away on a higher plateau. ‘Happier Now‘ is the album title song and although Tuel’s remarkable voice continued to occasionally stop drinkers in their pints, this neon circular venue can be cruel to the artist who feels detached. There wasn’t much chatting between songs because there didn’t seem to be many people to interact with. But they were there, listening. They were just in the nooks and crannies rather than on the dance floor.