Ka-Ching…With Twang: Joniana from Native Harrow and First Aid Kit

Native Harrow – Old Kind of Magic

First Aid Kit – Palomino

Joniana is a genre I invented to describe acts influences by Canadian maven Joni Mitchell. It is beyond obvious to point out the debt to Joni on the music of both Native Harrow, who are from London (though now based on the South Coast) and signed to Loose Music, and First Aid Kit, the Swedish sisters with fluttering harmonies. Both acts put out albums around Daylight Savings Time 2022.

Old Kind of Magic, the duo Native Harrow’s fifth album, contains plenty of ingredients that make up Joniana. There is strength in breaking up and going it alone on the title track (‘me, myself and I’). The six-minute Heart of Love is right in the Laurel Canyon mode, which continues on I Was Told, with some blue notes and diminished chords from singer Devin Tuel. A dropped-tune 12-string guitar thrums on I Remember, sounding like Joni’s autoharp, and closing track Find A Reason.

‘Time waits for no-one so darling take its hand’ is a lyric on Magic Eye. There are some social politics on Used To Be Free, as well as a meta commentary on Devin’s singing (‘I swallow notes’). The magisterial chorus of As It Goes has a Hammond organ part behind her vocals, which pass the baton to a string section for the final minute of the song. There’s a lush arrangement on Long Long Road which makes me think a set at next year’s Long Road festival would welcome the duo.

Johanna and Klara aka First Aid Kit did put out a tribute album to Leonard Cohen last year, a palate cleanser before their first original material since 2018’s Ruins. Out of My Head opens softly before rolling drums accompany the chorus and the harmonies intertwine on the second verse; the narrator is a beggar, prisoner and river, stacking up the metaphors while ‘running on love’. Angel (‘can’t you see you’re free?’) is even bigger and bolder. Both songs were apt choices of impact tracks to promote Palomino; it’s also odd that there are two albums (the other by Miranda Lambert) with the same title in the same year of release.

Turning Onto You has some horns parping behind a song of fidelity, as is Nobody Knows (‘me the way that you do’) and The Last One, where our narrator laments ‘wasting my time before you’. There’s a set of three notes that reminds me of The Tide Is High, which is probably accidental, as is the ‘take it slow’ hook of Ready To Run (where the narrator was ‘a nervous little kid’) that matches the one in John Legend’s Ordinary People.

There’s a lot of bass in the mix of Heavy Snow (‘I’m gonna love you till the moon don’t shine’ and I can imagine a mass humming session on Wild Horses II, a road trip with a magnificent arrangement. There are handclaps and electric guitar on the breakup song, and fellow impact track, A Feeling That Never Came, which provides some variety even though the lyrics would fit a ballad; this must be the ‘happy-sad’ that those Swedes do so well.

29 Palms Highway, which repeats the line ‘I hold my arms out to you’, ends with a high string part which increases the yearning. The title track jingles and jangles and, like many other tracks on the album, mentions the elements (‘wind in my hair’) and a drive on the highway. It’s not just about the harmonies here: the arrangements, structure and instrumentation are all excellent.

The Swedes can even do roots music better than the Americans.

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