New band of the day – No 802: Mountain Man

Inspired by the traditional folk, country and Appalachian stylings of Gillian Welch, this trio are the female Fleet Foxes

Hometown: Bennington, Vermont.

The lineup: Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Randall Meath.

The background: See the name Mountain Man and you think immediately of those burly check-shirted back-porch Americana types with beards that you read about in certain monthly magazines with a penchant for alt country. In fact, Mountain Man are distinctly lacking in facial hair, being three women with access to the best depilatory products money can buy, but they are currently receiving rapturous acclaim in those self-same journals for their sparse, near a cappella music of haunting, hymnal beauty.

Let's cut to the chase: they're females, they're foxes, they're the female Fleet Foxes. And just as when you first heard Fleet Foxes you did a double take – are these long-lost field recordings that someone has just discovered in a basement in Virginia? – so it is with Made the Harbor, the debut album by the three women who comprise Mountain Man. With just a delicate strum of acoustic guitar, their voices soar virtually unadorned, as pure as the Blue Ridge Mountain air (we're being poetic here; for all we know they could have built a power plant nearby and it could be thick with smog). The music by them that we've heard – the songs Animal Tracks and Soft Skin, on their MySpace – are like Joanna Newsom purged of every experimental impulse. It's closer to the "authentic" traditional folk, country and Appalachian stylings of Gillian Welch – not for nothing did some wag say that hearing them made him want to go and watch O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Of course, as with Welch, it's just a pose, a thing that they do – they're not backwards, backwoods girls who got married aged 10 to the sort of gap-toothed, in-bred rednecks who made poor Ned Beatty squeal like a pig in Deliverance. They actually met at notable liberal arts college Bennington in Vermont, where the likes of Andrea Dworkin and Camille Paglia studied. We vaguely remember Woody Allen being sniffy (or was it snippy?) about smart, privileged Bennington girls in one of his films, so that should disabuse anyone of the idea that Molly, Alexandra and Amelia (there's a clue right there in those names) are hillbillies. Two of them are still at Bennington, where they're studying Performance and Gender, and Theatre and Performance, while the third, Alex, graduated last year with a degree in Literature and Visual Arts and is now a nanny. It would be easy for us to be sniffy, or for that matter snippy, about them and how they were apparently moved to sing "by their love for people, and for trees, birds and mountains, the ocean, the night, the moon, and being a woman". But gosh darnit this three-girl choir and their eerily timeless songs have spooked us into submission.

The buzz: "The music of Mountain Man is nestled in the tradition of American folk, but shoots like a diamond dust sundog out of the nest and into the high, cold and wide atmosphere" – Underwater Peoples.

The truth: They might have double-barrel surnames but it doesn't halve the pleasure of their music.

Most likely to: Sing a song about the synonymity of intercourse and violation.

Least likely to: Mate with mountain men.

What to buy: Made the Harbor is released by Bella Union on 20 July.

File next to: Fleet Foxes, Joanna Newsom, Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss.


Tomorrow's new band: Civil Civic.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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