In the Womb with MaMuse

By Ryan Laine

“We are falling, falling into the arms of faith.”

Melody lingers, forms a whisper and dims. The spell has been cast. As silence settles, a deep echo holds space within the sound booth. All is still, save the twinkling meter of a recorder. A presence surrounds the two women, their eyes closed, gently smiling as if still listening. What ears no longer hear is felt throughout the room.

It is a period of reverence, of birth, and of passing. At its heart is MaMuse. The moment stretches and both women remain tuned in a meditation until the song has completely left the room. As turn to one another, smiles broaden into warm sighs, and they begin to laugh.

Nearing the 20th take on a late-night session, MaMuse has been warming up to this song for months. Sarah Nutting plays upright bass on Arms of Faith and has been with the lyrics since October. “No matter how much we practice, it just waits to come in when it’s ready. All we can do is stand here and open to it.”

MaMuse’s second full-length album, Strange and Wonderful, is days from completion. Each song is a meticulously recorded live performance, yet the studio is as tranquil as the forest surrounding it. Acceptance rings through the music, but to MaMuse, it’s a labor of pruning and puzzling, of gestation and patience.

“It’s different from a clean take when there is life in it,” notes instrumentalist and alto-soprano Karisha Longanker. “We’ll listen back and say, ‘Oh sure, it’s a clean take but is it alive?’”

Allowing the music to “come through” is a process the women of MaMuse know as well as themselves.

“We have recently gotten to a place in our relationship with ourselves and each other and to MaMuse where there is no separation,” said Nutting. “Maybe that’s what people experience when they listen to the music; they feel the closeness.”

It’s been two years since the blend of roots folk and a cappella gospel was born as MaMuse.

The duo’s sincere voice for wise and uplifting storytelling fell into the hearts of mamas, elders, children, and lovers alike.

“People tell us their children are frothing for our music! There’s something really good about that,” Longanker says with a laugh. “If something is real juicy, their little antennas go pingpingpingping!”

As an infant, Strange and Wonderful took an honest swim in the tide of life and a dive into the shadows, growing into a distinctly unique personality from their first release, Lean In. To MaMuse, it’s an opening of her voice and a deepening of presence.

“There are songs that don’t just want to talk about the bloom,” says Longanker. “It’s an acknowledgment of the cycles we all go though.”

“We’re not here to pretend,” says Nutting. “We’re getting up there because it’s our practice to do this. We can’t promise everything will be beautiful.”

From the Motown groove of Natural Order to a sultry syrup of harmonies wrapping the grim tale of Salem, the fingers and toes of MaMuse’s newborn are ready to dig into the earth. But life in the MaMuse family comes with big experience. Its first life lesson: Ride a bike to Ojai!

For April, MaMuse will debut Strange and Wonderful by bicycle throughout California on a first CD-release bicycle tour. The adventure is part of what MaMuse calls “following the Big Yes!”

“We feel so much encouragement to keep going,” said Nutting. “We’re just trusting that we’re to be holding this thing and Mamuse—she’s holding us. And she is so generous.”

“So generous!” echoes Karisha with laughter.

Reach Ryan Laine at ryanpatricklaine@gmail.com.