April 6, 2006

She's A Mountain

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In 2000 Canadian singer and song-writer Sarah Harmer debuted with, You Were Here, which absolutely captures the essence of life of the broke, young and hopeful in what locals call “the big smoke,” or to us south of the border, Toronto. She evokes of pangs of solitude by singing of simple things like the dripping tap, the smell bleach, and cold basement apartments. It is poppy, but sufficiently witty and original, with strange imagery like “there’s a coffee stain around your eye/ And lines that I can’t recognize.” Harmer is very honest about her denial, which seems antithetical, but with regards to an unfaithful lover she openly expresses, “I can lie to myself/ And say I like it very much.”

Although her new album I’m a Mountain is significantly different from her first, she repeats that all too familiar propensity for denial in the lighthearted song “I Am Aglow.” She nonchalantly contemplates, “Are the stories that you told me true/ It doesn’t matter if they are/ They are to me/ I am aglow,” and admits that it might be “Just my own imagination painting scenes/ More pretty.” Thankfully she encourages you to betray your better judgment, and give into that spring fling lustiness by twanging “Some may say I’m thinkin’ in sin/ So I just sit back and take you in.”

Nonetheless this album has a folksy bluegrass feel that speaks more of environmental issues, rather than leaky faucets and hearthaces of her first album. In the song and title name, “I’m A Mountain” she cites problems with Wal-Mart, global warming, and her ambivalence to spending the “day in a shopping mall/ Through the biggest storm of the century.” At one point she boldly asserts that, “You must decide if you will die or grow.” If every social movement has a song, environmentalism’s may be “Escarpment Blues.” In this song Harmer claims, “If they blow a hole in my backyard/ Everyone is gonna run away/ And the creeks won’t flow/ To the great lake below/ Will the water in the well still be okay?”

Sarah Harmer has created a beautifully simple string of songs with her naked dulcet tone, acoustic guitar and socially conscious message. She has skirted the bling and blitz of the music industry, and set out to sing about the green earth the way folks used to in the sixties and seventies. She makes a very fine point with, “We might get a load/ Of stone for the road/ But I don’t know how much longer we can stand.”

Archived article by Claire Readhead