Review: Harmondale “Spirit of 73”

Spirit of 73
By Gerry Gomez

Very rarely does an album come across our desk, that warrants such joy in hearing it, tears well up.  Harmondale is an exception. It’s the sort of music that cuts right through the gut and makes one truly feel. It’s sound coming from the core and one that comes across as whole-heartily familiar.

The desert infused sound of Spirit of 73, is rooted in the Joshua Tree, CA area and has the ability to transport one back to memories of a youth spent traveling the mystical high desert region. There are simply spirits that work their way in like angels and perhaps there is no better example in recent time than this debut from Harmondale.

Whereas other areas in the country have their unique local sound and are ripe to hold that up to the light, an honest snapshot of the band’s of the Southern-California High Desert are fewer and farther between, especially those that will claim an allegiance to Spirit of 73 (a reference to the year Gram Parsons passed away in that very same desert city).  But, Laura Harmondale successfully channels and directs that ether, with a desert-Shamaness.

There’s a wonderful earnestness to Harmondale’s vibe. The singing, the writing and the music. Present in Spirit of 73, is a quiet confidence paired with youthful exuberance, which is exemplified in the chorus of the soulful ballad, “Holy Water,”  when Harmondale confesses, “It’ll take more than holy water to save my soul.” It seems clear from tracks like that, she has found more than just talented Joshua Tree musicians to collaborate with and get her long incubated project off the ground. And? She did.

Joshua Tree NP

It appears Harmondale is keenly aware of her surroundings and coming to form a strong sense of self, lending evidence to the fact that her 2005 move to Joshua Tree, was a mission to discover herself. Luckily, she has a strong compass to guide her as a an individual. On top of that, she hooked up with Victoria Williams and Mark Olson, and spent a couple of years with them  on their ranch learning the “high desert philosophy of living” from Williams (which included everything from preparing organic chutneys to recognizing the sacredness of everything).

In a conversation with Laura Harmondale, she mentions the “oneness” that abounds in the Joshua Tree area and that it’s a tie that binds the locals. With Spirit of 73, she has seemingly come of age and formed some life-long opinions being in such a cosmically aligned place and “Law of the Land” stands as a clear testament to that.

The law of nature is the law of the land and all we can do is our best to understand… somehow we’ve lost our way, but we’ll come home again. Someday. – “Law of the Land”

Harmondale spent a good amount of time coaxing the songs on Spirit of 73 out of her environment and self. Still, nothing here seems forced. Rather, everything seems perfectly natural and in tune with her being. It’s comfortable territory for Harmondale and that’s what makes it seem so familiar, so confident, so assuring, so optimistic, and yet, still a work in progress.

There was a time I used to take whatever I could get … when I look back on yesterday. I see a place I just don’t want to stay…there ain’t nothing to it but to do it. You can’t run away now, you just get to it – “The Other Side”

These songs are lessons in life and a guide book to living the no B.S. existence the desert seems to have imparted on to Harmondale. Spirit of 73 is a solid album and worthy of taking the time to listen to.

For more information on Laura Harmondale, visit:

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