The Real Sarahs are really all named Sarah


Janine Volkmar
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – I heard The Real Sarahs share their acoustic vocal harmonies two years ago at The Mateel and I'm so glad they are coming back to Humboldt County. We'll have two chances to hear them on this visit; they're playing both Om Shala Yoga in Arcata and Phatsy Kline's in Eureka.

The group, based in Mendocino County, was born at the Anderson Valley Variety Show in Philo seven years ago. At that time, there were only two Sarahs, Sarah Larkin and Sarah Ryan.

"I was working on a variety act with a friend who knew Sarah (Ryan)," Larkin said. "We met again during a nine month herbal apprenticeship in Willits. It was once a month, all ladies, and we stayed up singing for half the night in the bunkhouse," she explained.

Out of that a band, the Motherland Family Band was born. That first group lasted until The Real Sarahs was born.

"In 2013, Sarah and I decided to do our own thing. We recorded a demo and decided to get serious."

Their first album was called simply, The Real Sarahs.

Now, two albums later, the group has grown to three Sarahs with the addition of Sarah Rose McMahon, who brings serious musical chops in the form of a cello and a background of family string quartets with her mother and sisters.

And, yes, really, they are each named Sarah. To keep things straight, though, McMahon goes by Rosie and Larkin goes by Songbird. Everything in harmony.

Harmonies are their strength and their signature, something that permeates their music and their lives.

"We sing harmonies by ear and by heart," Larkin said. “We’ve grown up singing harmony, each in our own path. When we work with other musicians, they’ll ask if we have charts. We arrange, we negotiate, we hone in, but we don’t have charts.”

Larkin sings and plays guitar; Ryan sings and plays both guitar and ukulele; McMahon plays cello and ukulele; they all play kazoo. Of course they do.

In keeping with the old timey feel of their harmonies and instruments they use an oversized vintage microphone, reminiscent of Nashville recording studios. “She’s called Josephine and we’re taking her on the road with us,” Larkin said. They’ve recorded with six musicians on one microphone, for that “live sound in the moment,” rather than being divided by equipment.

“It’s what we’re best known for,” Larkin explained, “being close to each other.”

The Real Sarahs see music as a gift. “When we play music, it’s about giving that gift away,” she said.

“The way people respond to what we do has been an inspiration to go further,” she added.

Further is what looms for The Real Sarahs. This will be their first road tour and they are excited to be out on the road. The tour includes dates in Oregon and Washington and will end up in Arcata and Eureka, after playing a dozen shows in 16 days. They’ll share the stage along the way with such artists as Jessica Malone, Caitlin Jemma, Caroline Cotter, Betty and The Babes, and, in Eureka, local fiddler Meghan Graham.

“We’re not flash or bling,” Larkin said. “It’s taken a long time for me to realize that that’s enough. We’ll keep it heart centered and true and honest.”

Don’t miss these women or you’ll have to wait until the Roll on The Mattole in July. They’ll play a free gig at Phatsy Kline’s Parlour Lounge, Thursday, April 5 at 8 p.m. That’s during the Redwood Coast Music Festival so Eureka will be the place to be. Phatsy’s is in The Eagle House, 139 Second Street. If Arcata is more your style, you can hear them as part of the Om Shala Concert Series on Saturday, April 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. Sliding scale at the door is $20-$10. Om Shala is at 858 10th Street.


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