CD Review: Mountain Man “Made the Harbor”

Mountain Man Made the Harbor
(Partisan Records – July 20th, 2010)
Review by Adam Perry for the East Bay Express

Unlike Fleet Foxes, their pastoral neo-folk counterparts, Mountain Man’s all-female lineup doesn’t boast a singularly stunning voice such as Robin Pecknold or even, say, Neko Case. What the Vermont-based throwback trio does possess, however, is an authentically Appalachian ethos that one-ups most of their indie-folk contemporaries in its beautiful sincerity.

With a melodic, startling sound that features nothing but acoustic guitar and gentle vocals that praise animals, romance, rivers and babies, the Bennington College-educated group’s debut, Made the Harbor, was recorded in a turn-of-the-century ice cream parlor and has all the deep breaths and floor creaking of turn-of-the-century folk recordings. On “Mouthwings,” Mountain Man (which most often sings as a trio) regales us with the lines “one day I’ll be my own Leadbelly / and I will grow a baby / oh he will move so swiftly / to hold me completely.” Amelia Randall Meath wrote “Mouthwings,” and she’s not even the band-member who majored in literature. On Made the Harbor, the three Mountan Man singer-songwriters—Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig (who works as a nanny) and Randall Meath—have a knack not only for singing as a mesmerizing unit but also for consistently hypnotizing listeners with lyrical runs like “give me back my bones / then maybe we can talk / between the sheets / it was just you and me / between the sheets / screaming so loud / staring so proud.”

Not surprisingly, the most powerful and engaging tracks on Made the Harbor feature no instrumental accompaniment; “Babylon” and “How’m I Doin,” for instance, prove these young women, who are currently touring Europe, could’ve captivated early-20th Century American dance-halls. Somehow, Mountain Man happens to exist in our time. And that’s a great thing.

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