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CD Review : Sarah Harmer – I’m a Mountain

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The day The Smashing Pumpkins split up was the last straw for me. Seattle was dead, Billy was heart-broken for being outsold by Britney and damn it, so was I. I was out of the game.

In the ’90s I was in this musical paradise that oddly reminded me of the ’70s. Hell we even had Neil Young cutting CDs with Pearl Jam, how cool is that? It was the second renaissance. Led Zeppelin came out to play with The Tea Party and all was good in the universe, balanced. Then came the Britney’s, the Back Street Boys and it left me feeling empty, desolate and broken. I was so upset with this commercial bullshit that I went into “hiding,” only coming up for air when my Gods, like Peter Gabriel would release something, anything. For a long time, I was only listening to new-agey music, instrumental and weird traditional music from the Middle East and India that can only qualify as an acquired taste. Nothing rocked me, nothing swung me, and nothing could make my heart skip a beat.

Last year, more or less, the Montreal movement raised its head. Suddenly music was back. I started hearing of bands like Arcade Fire coming out of my town and other artists like Sufjan Stephens. And as an avid viewer of The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos (I think I spelled it right) on the CBC I kept hearing of new stuff. George has a segment called “The National Playlist”, mostly it’s a plug for a radio show of the same name hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. And it’s on “The National Playlist” that I heard of Sarah Harmer’s new album.

Jian was raving about her new single, “Escarpment Blues” while my brain is mining itself for any memory, for any data I might have on her. A little image of a girl resembling Sarah pops in my mind, black and white and in a bathtub. I think it’s from an earlier album video release. But I’m not sure. But what I’m hearing on the tele is sufficient for me, I must have this album. That clear melodious voice, the banjo, oh boy do I love the sound of banjo, always did -– a much underused instrument in my opinion.

Lately I’ve been listening to internet radio stations and my favorite channels were the folk ones. Not too harsh and also very soulful music. I reserve the Metallica for when I work out. So getting into Sarah’s music wasn’t a big leap for me. I think all fans of folk music should have this album in their line-up. There were many surprises on this album. She covers “Will He Be Waiting for Me” from… wait… buckle up… Dolly Parton and it’s really a nice song. Then, without any psychological preparation, she starts singing in French for the song “Salamandre”, which was just a treasure, a gem, for this French guy.

This album is the soundtrack to a late summer party held around a fire, cold beer, and your best friends. Her voice brings such life to the pieces. The harp and the banjo give such a country lemonade feel. It’s completely unpretentious and promises nothing, but the feeling is there, Sarah is invested in making the songs as well as they can be. The recording quality is top notch, crisp and clear. Recording acoustic guitar is supposed to be a complicated task, but here it sounds like she’s right in the room with you, serenading you. Even when she sings songs from a man’s point of view it’s all very feminine and soothing to my ears. I can put this CD on repeat for hours and never get bored and I always discover a new sound with each listen.

An easy 4 outta 5, while tempted to give it a 5.

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