The sonic origins of Mark Ransom & The Mostest's new album are nestled at nearly 9,000 feet above sea level in Crested Butte, Colo.
That's where Ransom and his longtime creative partner Pat Pearsall tested out a buddy's new home theater system with a documentary on the making of Paul Simon's “Graceland” album.
They watched Simon travel to South Africa, record jam sessions with African musicians and then come back home and write songs over those rhythms.
And they were inspired.
The fruits of that inspiration bloom on the third Mostest album, “Zara Dreams,” a beautifully packaged set of Ransom's breezy, rootsy folk-pop played by a skilled band that's been tightening up together for years. Three band members play different styles of percussion; Lindsey Elias is a force behind a drum kit, while Shireen Amini and Dale Largent use a variety of hand drums and other instruments to spice up the beat.
“We had a vision of a real percussive and polyrhythmic base,” Ransom said Tuesday. “We definitely wanted to utilize Shireen and Dale and Lindsey together, and I actually didn't want Lindsey to be in charge of (the feel).”
So The Mostest eschewed the typical process of having a drummer set the beat and then playing to that, instead recording Largent and Amini, plus Ransom's acoustic guitar, Pearsall's bass and Scott Hersh's keys together and then adding Elias and violinist Julianne Southwell to the mix later.
The result is an album that grooves in a loose, loping way, reflecting Ransom's artistic vision and easygoing nature. “On so many songs, the backbeat is totally the core,” Pearsall said, “But it's kind of interesting when that's not the absolute cornerstone of everything.”
Ransom explains further: “The songs are more defined by the original acoustic guitar rhythm ... and that's what I didn't want to lose. When you have that polyrhythmic music bed, it frees up the melodic instruments ... to really let loose, and that's what (we) love to do.”
Ransom believes “Zara” contains his best songs, and Pearsall thinks it's the best-sounding Mostest album yet. Lots of credit goes to Linken Olsen, who provided guidance along the way, as well as guests musicians Joe Schulte, Gabe Johnson and Marcello Bernardes, who played on the record as well.
The Mostest CD release; 7 p.m. Thursday; McMenamins Old St. Francis School, 700 N.W. Bond St., Bend; www.mcmenamins.com.