Mountain Man 2021: Still the Ones
September 16, 2021 - By Adam Schatz
Imperfect perfection is hard to come by, and impossible to seek out. It just drops on your head one day, and then you wonder what your life was ever like without it. Your equilibrium gets sorted and the uncertainty of it all, of all this (gestures at the world) begins to feel a bit more right. Imperfect perfection comes in many unpredictable shapes and sizes: a hot dog with the correct condiment ratio, a smell from the warm ground after a good rain that you couldn’t properly put into words if you tried, and of course Mountain Man.
The first sounds our universe received from Mountain Man are in the first seconds of the first song “Buffalo” on their first album Made the Harbor, which is celebrating its ten year anniversary right about now. The sounds are as follows: a test of the guitar strings, a throat clear, some fret noise, a shuffling of body parts, and a second throat clear. Then the song really begins and the magic sneaks up on you. Voices come in focus one by one, separate then together, reminding you how nice the world can be when you’re apart and also when you’re on top of each other. A reminder, maybe, that there’s no single right way.
The world of Mountain Man is an uneven and marvelous place to spend your time, where the conditions of the harmony change on a dime, and the rules you thought were rules aren’t just broken, but rather undone. Those rules shouldn’t have existed to begin with, you agree, as Amelia, Molly and Alexandra serenade you about sweaty backs, many animals, patience and chaos. In 2010, Mountain Man released Made the Harbor, and after making a lasting impression in the industry proving grounds of Myspace, Molly Erin Sarlé, Alexandra Sasuer-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath toured the world singing backup for Feist, and surely smelled some summer rains along the way, and maybe even considered a hot dog or two. And sure, maybe Myspace doesn’t exist any more, but we can all take comfort with the knowledge that Mountain Man still lives, and Mountain Man is still a place for friends.
You could try to categorize Mountain Man, you could try to justify their existence among others. You might say it sounds as if the Roches hit the Marx Brothers with their covered wagon, and drove off before exchanging insurance information. You could say it sounds like Pete Seeger took an axe to the power lines at the Annual Conference of Sexist Americana Enthusiast. You might say a lot of things, but you’d be better off listening, and learning to love like Mountain Man loves. And if your arm gets twisted, you could call it imperfect perfection, and I think you’d be right. I probably should have cut this off after the second word. – Adam Schatz
Now, a decade past its release, Made the Harbor celebrates its tenth anniversary with an additional disc’s worth of bonus material. The second LP features unreleased songs, live sessions recorded at Bennington College’s Greenwall Auditorium at the inception of the project, along with covers of the Mills Brothers, Arthur Russell, and then-Vermont contemporary toothache, and more. The deluxe packaging includes a collage culled from the band’s personal collection and live photos from that time, as well as a personal essay by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.