Loyal fans hooked on the harmonies

Mountain Man At Home On The Road




Independent/Chervin Lainez

The popular music biz is big on dreamers and wannabes, greedy promoters and pushy managers, all looking to move product.

Then there is Mountain Man: make a critically acclaimed album filled with original music and the promise of reviving a tragically overlooked musical genre – and then walk away.

By the way, the “band” consists of three women, Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath, and the music they explore, which is by no means limiting, is most often dubbed “Americana.”

Their 2010 debut album “Made The Harbor” stunned critics with its mesmerizing harmonies, the Appalachian-tinged tunes “weaving an unadorned sound that can be hauntingly beautiful,” according to NPR.

The songs harkened back, not to any one era or genre, but to undefined, personal space. “Music is there to help you feel a feeling,” Sauser-Monnig said, adding the songwriting process was both individual and collaborative.

“We each write and present our songs to each other,” Sauser-Monnig said. “Next, we would come up with the harmony and then fill in the words.”

When it’s working — and it almost always does — the results are hypnotic and spellbinding, sometimes moving audience members to tears.

After touring with Feist, the group unceremoniously pulled the plug.

“We never made a conscious decision to say no,” Sauser-Monnig. Instead, life happened after college — the members were all attending Bennington College at the time – and went of their own way.

But the music lingered. “We were excited singing together. It was such a pleasure,” she said.

As legend would have it, the three found themselves living in North Carolina years later, re-bonded, and enjoyed the rebirth. The signature harmonies were as unpredictable as ever. “It is quite natural. We don’t plan it out. Sometimes I’ll sing the low part and sometimes the middle. Gradually they change until we are all tuned in,” she said.

A gig at the Eaux Claires music festival in 2017 confirmed their instincts: this group had something to say, and a willing — make that rapt —audience wanting to hear it. A new album, “Magic Ship,” fulfills their vision.

The music has been Americana or Appalachian, but defies stereotyping.

“We’re not pulling from any genre or style. I would say there is symmetry. A reference point,” Sauser-Monnig commented. The bandmates listened to the Andrews Sisters and Mills Brothers to check out the harmonies; each had popular music faves they listened to growing up, in her case, The Beatles.

One critic describes the new album “as a long summer evening spent lounging beneath a shade tree, swapping stories and sharing laughs until the sun has vanished.” Think of it as bluegrass and Americana, whispers of American rock, and a shot of Gregorian chant.

Mountain Man takes the stage at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Sunday, June 2. Get your tickets on the web at www.whbpac.org, by phone at 631-288-1500, or at box office at the theater, 76 Main Street.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com