Behind Every Mountain Man, Three Harmonizing Women

Photo by Travis Huggett

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The women of Mountain Man, a group consisting of three lucid voices and the occasional accompaniment of a guitar, playfully write that they derive inspiration from “train engines, mothers, kale, Wild West” and several tree varieties.

While the flora references leave a bit to be explained, the train-engine influence is easy to detect: Beginning with a chord that grows and then softens, “How’m I Doin,” a cover off their new album Made the Harbor, emulates a passing locomotive. The mood created by this song transports me to a bygone era full of the windswept prairies, lone wooden houses, and the bleak and beautiful mining towns of the Old West. Other highlights, like “Animal Tracks,” “Honeybee,” and “Sewee Sewee” present narratives set in woods and tall grasses. The natural world, with its bees and loons and cold creeks, is woven into nearly every song. We’ll follow animal tracks, a voice beckons, to a tree in the woods / and a hole in the leaves we’ll see / the bright baby eyes of a chickadee.

Mountain Man’s vintage allure also stems from its mastery of the three-part harmony. Although this is a popular technique, it takes the right blend and enough interesting moments of discord to base an entire album on it. Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath, who met at Vermont’s Bennington College, sing as if they originated from one voice that splinters and then comes back together over and over again.

Their eerie melodies are at once joyful and lamenting, like the ghosts of some hardened, early 20th century women who have decided to sit on the front porch and sing into the night. Made the Harbor, recorded in the attic of an old house, is a keeper for fans of Gillian Welch and the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. The album yields no big surprises or genre-bending experimentation—just sweet, unfettered melodies that settle like sighs of relief.

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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