Harmer’s folk rock charms Breck
BRECKENRIDGE -Sarah Harmer’s first gig was in a nursing home, practicing piano and singing “The Candy Man” with her four older sisters and one brother in a barbershop “sextet,” complete with hats and all.The Canadian singer and songwriter grew up on a farm in southern Ontario, and being the baby of a musical family, she was a natural ham. It didn’t take her long to discover she could avoid doing chores by practicing piano and singing for her dad.”Music was a cheery kind of thing around my house,” Harmer said. “Everybody sang, went to church on Sunday, and we had carol sings every Christmas.”Trading choir songs for twang-rock tunes, she joined a band called the Saddletramps when she was 17, then majored in women’s studies and minored in music at Queen’s University in Kingston, spending her formative years listening to college bands.She put together her band Weeping Tile, from which she is currently taking a break, in four days when artist manager Patrick Sambrook asked her to create an opening act for Thomas Trio & The Red Albino. The band went on to release an EP in 1994 and two full-length recordings in 1995 and 1997.Harmer’s solo career started with a Christmas present to her dad. She recorded his favorite jazz and bluegrass songs on her back porch and discovered she had recorded a nice, carefree little gem, which she sold on the Internet and at shows.Her last album, “You Were Here,” marked her U.S. debut as a solo artist. It garnered a nomination for the Canadian Grammy awards and landed on Time magazine’s 2000 year-end list. The coffeehouse-type sounds are a hybrid of sensual laments and down-home, heel-kicking tunes spiked with rootsy pop and jazzy touches.”This album shows some of my little wounds,” Harmer said. “My hurt feelings. My reverence for natural beauty. My relationships and love for people. There are a lot of “yous’ in these songs. Most of them are people I know. Or knew.”She compares her songs to photographs, or slices of life, that get exposed, while others remain uncaptured.”There’s an open-hearted theme going on through that record -I would say exposed,” she said. “Singing and songwriting, for me, tends to be a personal evolution that’s so incremental and that comes out in such weird ways. Sometimes I wonder why some things stick and others, that seem bigger on a personal level, don’t.”She’s currently working on a new album, due out in spring, that ranges from finger-pickin’ bluegrass to energetic pop rock.”The songs are all different,” she said. “It kind of goes all over the map. I’d like to have some sort of continuity even with the varied songs.”Like her music, her inspiration runs the gamut, from nature to touring.”Other music inspires me because it’s an articulation of feeling that I can understand,” she said. “I live in the country, and I love nature madly. I’m pretty much in the state of awe most of the time.”Though she lives in awe, her music doesn’t always arise spontaneously.”I’m not just completely taken over by the muse and laid out as it is,” she said. “These songs (on my new album) have been getting a working over. I’m trying to favor the awe of spontaneity.”She’s already planning a second future album, which will be purely instrumental and improvisational. She plays the organ, piano and guitar and often adds the clarinet, cello and beat loops to her band’s upright bass and drums.”(Wednesday’s show) will hopefully be a dynamic night of direct music and sweet sounds with a little attitude here and there,” she said.Tickets for the 8 p.m. show Wednesday at the Riverwalk Center are $17 in advance, $19 day of the show, and may be purchased by calling (970) 547-3100.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at email@example.com.—Event: Sarah HarmerWhen: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14Where: Riverwalk Center, Breckenridge
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