By David Malitz
It's nearly impossible to find an album with more unadorned elegance than "Made the Harbor" by Vermont's Mountain Man. Save for some very quiet, gently plucked acoustic guitar, the nectar-sweet voices of Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Randall Meath are the only elements present on the 13 songs. It's almost jarring in its simplicity and makes for a refreshing, often entrancing listen.
Owing much to Appalachian folk, gospel and even some barbershop, the songwriting is basic. But this works in the group's favor as there's no sense in distracting from the trio's voices. They enter one at a time on the album-opening "Buffalo" - "follow, follow, follow, follow the buffalo" - before joining together in striking clarity, turning a throwaway lyric into something of a mantra. Throughout the album they repeatedly hit the right balance of solo singing and harmonizing. When they sing in tandem, it's as thrilling as any guitar-driven rock crescendo.
Taken out of context individual songs might seem a bit gimmicky, but there's a heartfelt honesty throughout "Made the Harbor." The influences are clearly of another era, but the songs never feel retro. That term usually implies an adherence to a specific sound tied to a certain era. Mountain Man reminds us that nothing else is needed but the right combination of unaccompanied voices to make something that sounds timeless.
Mountain Man performs at 9:30 Club on Nov. 8.
Recommended tracks: "Buffalo," "White Heron," "Soft Skin"