Music review by Kelly Sullivan/The AS Review
Upon first encountering a band with a name like Mountain Man, you’re likely to think of a group of hipsters, but enhanced with dirtier, untrimmed beards, perhaps even-less-frequently washed flannel shirts and “naturally” worn skinny jeans melodramatically strumming guitars.
Contrary to what you might think, the band actually consists of three female singers: Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Randall Meath. The group’s unique vocal styling, reminiscent of Fleet Foxes mixed with mellow gospel, sets them apart from other indie bands on the rise today.
The group relies on their haunting, gorgeous harmonies to fill in for a stark lack of instrumentation in their songs. Despite this, their style is so mellow it could almost put Bon Iver to shame. Although their composition from song to song remains very similar, each is incredibly distinct with different harmonies, messages and imagery detailed in carefully crafted lyrics.
Their first full-length album “Made the Harbor,” released on July 20, 2010, has had considerable circulation, and is receiving enthusiastic acclaim on personal blogs and lesser-known music review sites.
Songs such as “River,” “How’m I Doin’” and “Mouthwings” feature the women’s unaccompanied voices, while in others a gently strummed guitar plays a minor role. The songs “Babylon” and “Honey Bee” exude sounds inspired by southern gospel and Appalachian folk music. In these cases it is easy enough to picture the three janglin’ away on a front porch in some sweaty bayou; however, “Soft Skin” and “Animal Tracks” always bring you back to the feel of modern indie-folk.
Mountain Man’s lyrics often paint images of intimate sexual encounters and of nature. The combination of the lyrics and vocals express and evoke a sense of the numinous and mundane simultaneously. The songs are easily accessible to any listener as long as they are in the mood to relax.
Mountain Man has opened for Jonsi, The Middle East and most recently for The Decemberists on February 18 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. When Decemberists’ lead singer Colin Meloy referred to the opening act, he predicted that the band was going to be incredibly popular someday. They are already on their way with a solid word-of-mouth following on the Internet, and are scheduling performances with more and more mainstream groups.
No sound check was necessary at the concert, since the stage was empty except for the three women, three microphones and one guitar. The faintly colored stage lights behind the performers, combined with their simple harmonies, created an almost unearthly atmosphere in the room. The crowd listened in silence as many were hearing the group for the first time. As an extra bonus, their stop-you-in-your-tracks vocals translate from an amazing live performance to a vocally enhanced and edited album without losing any of their magic in the process.