The name may conjure up images of James ‘Grizzly’ Adams but Mountain Man are in a fact a trio of young ladies with a penchant for Americana and Appalachian folk as old as the Vermont hills they hail from. By some stroke of amazing luck Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Randall Meath met as housemates in college striking a harmonic relationship that resonates through their music.
Akin to the work of fellow Vermontonian, Sam Amidon, Mountain Man’s debut album Made The Harbor is a collection of stripped-back folk rooted in a by-gone era. Singing in three part harmonies that weave through each other with minimal accompaniment, their voices are primal – raw, warbling, cooing, shrill, deep, full-throated, breathy and stirring.
The grounding and arresting affect of the naked voice is further anchored by tales of functional and primitive activities. On -Animal’ they sing ‘And the sweat will roll down our backs / and we’ll follow animal tracks’ – this style of simplistic directness is rich in textural and evocative imagery and is prevalent in their lyrics. Pregnancy is addressed in ‘Mouthwings’, ‘one day I’ll be my own Leadbelly and I will grow a baby’ while ‘Dog Song’ questions nature over simple and effective light acoustic guitar. Also with deftly plucked guitar ‘Soft Skin’ has possibly the most beautiful harmonies with the most striking imagery ‘We’re so wet and we’re so tight / beat me down into the floor tonight’ while ‘How’m I’m Doin’ brings some playfulness – an acapella do-wop delight.
Listening to Made The Harbor feels like eavesdropping, such is the delicate and gorgeous intimacy of the record. But Mountain Man aren’t delicate, in fact they are an elemental force using the human voice to channel something inherently spiritual.