Oh Little Fire

Canadian singer Sarah Harmer is a slippery artist to categorize. Her music owes as much to pop and rock as it does to folk and she’s even indulged bluegrass fans on her last release I’m a Mountain. Harmer is a country girl who tours for a living, straddling rural contentment and city commitments. Oh Little Fire, Harmer’s first album in 4 years, reflects those opposing lifestyles.

Harmer co-produced Oh Little Fire with Gavin Brown, who played drums on her debut album. Like that first release Oh Little Fire offers songs that lend themselves to volume; most sound great cranked up as they crackle and pop over layered production, the kind of songs that make good traveling companions. “The Thief” sets the stage for the record; whining feedback rolls into guitar and drums. Clearly this isn’t a folk record although those underpinnings exist. “Captive” with its thumping beat is a sprightly pop gem highlighted by Harmer’s reinvigorated vocals.

There are pensive moments on the album; “New Loneliness” is a meditative ballad featuring countrified metaphors, muted horn, and acoustic guitar. “Silverado” the album’s only non-original song, features Neko Case and a country music swagger. Pedal steel, clicking acoustic guitar, and twangy electric guitar smartly offset the women’s paired vocals.

Oh Little FireDuring the last 4 years Harmer has spent time working on environmental concerns and living with many of the songs on the album. She describes the title as coming from the process of “burning down and rekindling.” Oh Little Fire finds the singer and the songwriter sounding inspired and restored. However you chose to categorize her music, Sarah Harmer has produced her best work to date.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)