On first listen, the debut from Mountain Man, an indie folk trio formed by singer/songwriters Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall, sounds like a record of its time, especially amidst the current crop of bearded, northwest folkies (Fleet Foxes), Midwest romancers (Bon Iver), and English new traditionalists (Laura Marling). While Made the Harbor can hold its head high amongst the works of such company, its charms are drawn from a much deeper well. A rustic blend of Revival-era Gillian Welch, early Watersons, and late-'50s Greenwich Village folk siblings the Kossoy Sisters, Made the Harbor feels more like a field recording than a studio effort. Recorded in a turn-of-the-20th-century ice cream parlor, the 13 tracks are willfully austere, slow, steady, and verdant, turning to animals and nature as metaphors for any actual human interaction. Every little throat clearing, foot shuffle, and distant highway semi has been left intact, a trick that in lesser artists' hands could have come off as presumptuous or slight. All three women possess voices that are simple, plain, and effortless, and that is the glue that holds this debut together. The songs (highlights include “Animal Tacks,” “Soft Skin,” and “River”), never ramble on too long, the melodies feel timeless, and the tasteful polyphony never feels calculated, resulting in a very old-sounding and very good collection of modern Appalachian folk songs.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger