Mountain Men – Made the Harbor

January 01, 1970

(Partisan)

 

www.partisanrecords.com

 

The band moniker for this trio of female Bennington College
students carries with it an inevitable subtext, but their pure-form folk insists
on a more universal and timeless reading. Fecund with earthy imagery and
animistic metaphor, the natural world flows through this 13-track debut like an
eternal pulse with no end or beginning, until the Man in the name stands in for
all of us even as the narratives take a distinct feminine bent. Recorded in an old ice cream parlor from the
turn of the 20th century, Made the Harbor dissolves the line between listener and musician in an intimate blend of voices
and acoustic guitar — the singers’ audible breathing, the creaking of floors and clearing of throats, the buzz of
strings and the occasional muffed fingerings put you right there throughout. Maybe most impressive, though, is that for
such a simple palette, the trio — Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig
and Amelia Randall Meath – create an impressive range of emotion and mood. They
can coil their voices around each other like electric wires and make melody
malleable, or join in unison to form rebar-sturdy vocal columns. On the
guitar-less “Mouthwings,” a song about motherhood, the polyphonic voices take
on a medieval madrigal feel; on “How’m I Doin’?,” close harmonies read early 20th century folk blues. “Animal Tracks” celebrates seasonal change from Winter to
Spring, an extra daub of reverb conjuring the expanded possibilities, while the
darker-hued “Soft Skin” unflinchingly investigates the grey area between sex
and violence. The trio doesn’t add anything much to its a capella version of the traditional folk song “Babylon,” but it’s
really the only misstep here that doesn’t add to the record’s momentum and
charm. Of course those who can’t take this music on its own terms will find the
Earth Mother-vibe overwhelming and the limited instrumentation snoozy, but
otherwise this is an easy – and enjoyable – vocal adventure to get lost in.

 

DOWNLOAD:  “Soft Skin” “Animal Tracks” JOHN SCHACHT

 

 

 

 

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