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Sarah Harmer


Country of origin:

Canada

Type of music generally:

Acoustic folkrock, some country influence

Status:

Most recent release, Oh Little Fire (2010)

See also:

Sarah Harmer's official page

A page for her former band, Weeping Tile

The Ectophiles' Guide entry for Weeping Tile and her work with Jason Euringer

Comparisons:

Kelly Willis

There are similarities to her work with Weeping Tile. There's a certain flavour to Canadian folkrock that she seems squarely in the camp of, but I can't right now think of good examples of those she's particularly like. (Neile)

Covers/own material:

Mostly own. Occasional covers and others' poems set to music.

General comments:

For those who don't know, Sarah Harmer is also known as the voice of the Canadian band Weeping Tile. Weeping Tile is more of a straight-ahead rock outfit, but this solo CD of hers is a bright, jangly, perfect poppy record that really showcases her lovely voice. Add to my list of most beautiful voices: Sarah Harmer. I realized at the end of her near-two-hour-long set at the Iron Horse last night that yes, I would happily pay money to listen to her sing the phone book. (Plus, she would surely make some funny comments about the odd names in there while she was at it. ;) (meth@smoe.org)

I hosted the trio of Sarah Slean, Sarah Harmer, and Leslie Feist at my house, and was tremendously impressed by Sarah Harmer's music. At times, I heard a strong similarity to some of the music on Kelly Willis' newest CD, as well. Of course, if you don't know who Kelly Willis is, that particular comparison is pretty useless. But it's the best comparison I can think of...there was a bit of an 'old school' country swing influence, to these ears.
     So, go buy her CD. She was great live, and the CD is great, too. (kbpease@boston.crosswinds.net)

Comments about live performance:

I'm sitting here looking over at the other side of the living room having trouble believing that only a few short hours ago an amazing concert was taking place here.
     Sarah Harmer, Leslie Feist, and of course Sarah Slean were all incredibly wonderful. Harmer's set was mesmerizing. (3/00)
     woj and I saw Sarah Harmer open for Moxy Fruvous at Irving Plaza in NYC. I was surprised to see that she had a band with her: Kevin Fox (of Sarah Slean fame) on bass and cello, and the former drummer of Crash Vegas on drums.
     Capsule review: she ruled. Hearing the best songs from You Were Here performed live with a band was amazing. She ended her (way too short) set with "Lodestar", and it was a truly transcendent experience. She caught the attention of the Fruheads in the crowd, too.
     Can't wait to see Sarah Harmer do a full-length set one of these years... (4/00)
     Last night I saw Sarah Harmer open for Church of Betty at The Bottom Line. We arrived just as Sarah was in the middle of her first song ("Hideout"). She had her band with her (former drummer from Crash Vegas, and Kevin Fox (of Sarah Slean fame) on bass and cello.
     It was a good set, though it felt like she was rushing through it to squeeze as many songs as she could in to the 30 minutes she was given. The songs were all played just a tad faster than on the CD, and there was no time between them at all—stop, say "thanks", quick adjust the tuning, then jump into the next one. Still, though, it was great to see her play again. She did "Weakened State", which was great, and closed out with the always stunning "Lodestar". (9/00)
     She was with her band, which this time also included an extra guitar player. He only played on a few songs, but he added good stuff to the ones he did play on. I think it was the best full-band Sarah show yet. The band was tight, and Sarah seemed to be sure of herself and having a good time. "Weakened State" and "Lodestar" kicked particular butt that night. She also played a new song, which was quite nice. (12/00)
     She was completely solo, with just an acoustic guitar, and she proceeded to put on the best performance I've ever seen her do. While I've loved seeing her, my one complaint has been that she's tended to rush through the songs, and seemed rather nervous in between songs. Not this time. She was relaxed, and genuinely happy to be back on the road again. She told some really funny stories in between songs, and provided some insight into a few of her old ones (such as, "Uniform Grey" was written in Halifax—makes sense!).
     She also played a lot of new songs, since she's been recording a new album (yay!) that is due in January. They were all really, really good. I think the new album will be well worth the wait. If you can get to a show don't miss it. (6/03, meth@smoe.org)

Thanks to everyone who mentioned her show in Boston! I thought she was absolutely wonderful! I especially loved when she was backed up by the cello! Her music sounded more like October Project than the samples on her page, but it was great! I absolutely recommend seeing her! (6/00, adriftaway@yahoo.com)

Sarah Harmer, from Weeping Tile, ended off the show with a set that showed an astonishing amount of country influence. I'd heard that she had a lot of background as a country artist and that Weeping Tile actually took her away from her country roots, but somehow I remained surprised. I still enjoyed her set but not nearly as much as I thought I would. Throughout her set she only did 2 or 3 Weeping Tile songs. In Lilith-ey fashion she closed the show by bringing out Sarah Slean and Oh Susanna for a song, and it was clear that they were having a blast playing together. The whole show the audience was dead quiet, despite the fact that it was fairly obvious that most of the people there were Weeping Tile fans. The strongest reaction from the crowd predictably came during the Weeping Tile songs. (c. 1999)
     Saw Sarah Harmer play a show in a gorgeous church on Thursday night. I was lucky to get tickets, because to my astonishment the 600 seat venue sold out over a week in advance. I've been fortunate to see Sarah play many times over the last 5-6 years, solo and in Weeping Tile, and this was the best.
     Most of the songs were from her latest CD You Were Here but there were a few older ones thrown in as well. She had her band with her, notably including the incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist Kevin Fox. I love seeing Kevin play, both as a backing musician and solo, he's an amazing talent.
     Sarah and her band were in fine form, and the adoring crowd rewarded her by calling her back for two encores and giving her three standing ovations. Fantastic! (10/00, kamesan@geocities.com)

Saw Sarah here in Ottawa last Monday night. Amazing progression over the last couple of years (I've been at her live shows since the early Weeping Tile days). She is so much more confident, and her voice much stronger live than it's ever been. Overall a great show. (10/00, dlw@sympatico.ca)

Damn she was good. The Iron Horse was packed to the rafters, and I'm sure everyone who came was really glad that they did.
     Sarah was joined by Kevin Fox on electric bass, cello and backing vocals, and...umm...the drummer whose name I'm forgotten on drums and occasionally electric guitar. They played a great set, with plenty of songs from You Were Here, plus a Weeping Tile song ("Good Fortune"), and some new ones (one so new it didn't even have a name yet). The highlight of the evening for me was when the last song of the regular set turned out to be "Lodestar," which is easily my favorite of her songs. Sarah was in high spirits throughout the show, and really seemed to be enjoying herself, which is always great to see.
     Anyway, it was a great show, and I strongly urge all the ectophiles out there to take advantage of any chance they might have to catch Sarah live. (2/01, mcurry@io.com)

Yes, I saw Sarah Harmer's first UK gig last night, at the Borderline, and she was...okay. I guess. She had a good audience, a crowd of obvious devotees (or Canadians) who knew all the words. Anyway: Great voice, nice tunes, good accompaniment from a drummer (doubling up on electric guitar) and bassist (doubling up, to great effect, on cello). Everything presented very pleasantly, but with no drive or edge or sense of...well, much of anything, actually. A nice little chamber piece, each song chugging along until it ended. Sarah, while seeming a very personable sort, isn't the most charismatic of performers, singing—for the most part—with her eyes closed. It all drifted by amiably, and about halfway through I began to feel really tired and disengaged. She says she's coming back again in the autumn, but I'm not rushing to book my ticket quite yet. (5/01, adamk@zoom.co.uk)

The only time I'd heard Sarah Harmer before was at a house-gig awhile back. At the time, I was impressed by her songwriting but found her voice pleasant but not captivating. That changed completely hearing her songs embellished with band accompaniment. Her vocals were far more dynamic and definitely grabbed me. She had a captivated audience and a fairly large following of her own there. I'm definitely going to check into her releases. (ABershaw@aol.com)

we saw her last weekend at the iron horse and the show was most excellent, so if you're on the fence, i'd recommend settling on the going side rather than the staying-home side. ;) (6/03, woj@smoe.org)

It was a pretty small crowd. Felt like she'd been on the road for a while, as she seemed a bit tired and wasn't as chatty as she's been in the past. She had a full band and they did a nice mix of songs from her last two albums, with one Weeping Tile song from Eepee for good measure. (5/04, neal)

Recommended first album:

Either

Recordings:


You Were Here

Release info:

2000—Zoë Records (1 Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140, U.S.A.)—01143-1017-2. There was also a limited edition, numbered release that Sarah sold through her website in 2000 before the Zoë Records release.

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Sarah Harmer—vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric wah guitar, guitars, organ, harmonica, tambourine, wurlitzer

Guest artists:

Pete P—bass, beats, electric guitar, dobro, guitar
Gord Tough—electric guitar
Maury Lafoy—bass, upright bass
Gavin Brown—drums
Al Cross—drums
Damon Richardson—drums
Cam Giroux—drums
Luther Wright—dreamy electric guitar
Spencer Evans—clarinet
Kevin Fox—cello
Benjamin Perosin—trumpet
Jenny Whitley—harmony vocals
Jason Euringer—harmony vocals

Produced by:

Sarah Harmer & Peter Prilesnik

Comments:

I'm halfway through the first listen and I already know it's a winner. (I think woj has listened to it five times today alone. When he does he gets that goofy grin on his face that only appears when he's listening to happy greatness. :)
     Later: I do believe this wins the award for "Most Listened-To Album Of The Year". There is not a weak track on this disc. Sarah's voice shines through all of the styles apparent in the songs, from the rocking "Weakened State" to the old Weeping Tile song "Basement Apartment" to songs that would sound at home on a Victoria Williams album, such as "Hideout" and "Coffee Stain", to catchy little ditties like "Uniform Grey" and the moving "Capsized" and "Lodestar". The last 3 or 4 songs do tend to blur together in my mind, but nevertheless this is the first new disc to make it onto my Desert Island list in quite some time. (meth@smoe.org)

I'm on my second listen for this CD, and I gotta agree...it's the first new CD this year to really grab me and it'll definitely make my top 10 of the year. After hearing her do some of the songs live in woj-n-meth's apartment I expected it to be pretty good, but it isn't...it's great! :) Now if I could just actually find a copy of Weeping Tile's Cold Snap... (mcurry@io.com)

Allow me to 'third' this. I enjoyed seeing Sarah Harmer (and the rest of the performers) live, but her CD is really quite excellent...probably one of the best CDs I've got this year as well! The CD is consistently good. (jeffw@smoe.org)

What an exciting surprise the songs from the new album sound a lot like Weeping Tile's eePee record! I haven't spent much time with it yet but I can already tell this is the follow-up to eePee I was hoping for five years ago. Most of the experiments with jangly alternative and old-time country are left off this album, replaced by those strong melodies and vivid pictures painted by Sarah's expressive voice that made eePee so great. Musically, it's a bit inconsistent and the production values are kind of low—typical of a lot of indie records I suppose—but the magic is there in spite of that.
     I don't know if I'd call it as strong as eePee, but I unexpectedly have new Harmer songs now, so I'm happy! (carnivore@bigfoot.com)

About a week ago I picked up You were here and after just a few listens I definitely am ranking it as one of my favorite albums that I've heard in a LONG time! She's amazing, I don't know what drew me over to the cd in the store but I'm so glad I picked it up! The songs are kinda mellow but catchy at the same time...I love it! :-) (RocketsTail@aol.com)

I picked this up yesterday. Excellent! I really like it, and it will be spinning for quite a while. (ipmsfortcrook@yahoo.com)

If she continues to produce material like this, I won't miss Weeping Tile. (dlw@sympatico.ca)

I *love* the first three tracks, but am pretty lukewarm about the rest of the album. (JoAnn Whetsell)

The music on this initially was not much to my taste, but I do love Sarah Harmer's voice and sensibility enough that I've taken the time to like the music better. It took me a while to like parts of her Weeping Tile work, too. There's something about Canadian folk/rock...I don't want to like it but I nearly always do. Maybe it's in the Canadian blood or cultural training. (Neile)

This was my favorite album for pretty much the entire year. SO different from her stuff on Weeping Tile's Cold Snap. Well deserving of all the accolades she's received. Fantastic songwriting and wonderful production, and it defies pigeonholing. (paul2k@aol.com)

One of my favourite albums of the year. (gordoja@optonline.net)

This is an album that had to grow on me a bit. First listen I thought, hmm, sounds interesting, but nothing special. But the more I listened to it the more I realized how Sarah's voice really captures the emotions of the songs. Another very solid album—not a bad track on it. (jjhanson@att.net )


all of our names

Release info:

2004—Cold Snap Records—0249861775

Availability:

Wide in U.S. and Canada

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Sarah Harmer—guitars, bass, drums, synth, piano, glockenspiel, wurlitzer, Juno, vocals

Guest artists:

Gavin Brown—drums, baritone guitar, drums, wurlitzer, guitar
Howie Beck—bass, drums
Marty Kinack—guitars, wurlitzer, banjo, piano, synth, bass, drums
Ian Thornley—ambient guitar
Fuzzy—drums
Maury LaFoy—bass, upright bass
Jim Bryson—guitar
John Obercian—drums, snare
Kevin Fox—cello
Benjamin Perosin—trumpet

Produced by:

Sarah Harmer and Martin Davis Kinack

Comments:

This one is mostly more mellow, a little less rocking than You Were Here, and so I'm sure that for some people it's a little less immediately catchy. The whole album has a melancholy feel, even though the first several tracks are pretty upbeat. Late though there's a phrase in "Tether": "a melody is aching" which seems to describe the last few songs well. My favourite tracks here is "Almost". Moody, original, recommended. (Neile)

One of my top albums of 2004. (Paul2k@aol.com)


I'm A Mountain

Release info:

2005—Cold Snap Records (Canada); 2006—Zoe Records (U.S.)

Availability:

Wide in U.S. and Canada

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Sarah Harmer—guitar, electric guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Chris Bartos—fiddle
Willie P. Bennett—harmonica
Dan Curtis—guitar
John Dinsmore—bass
Jason Euringer—harmony vocals, upright bass
Spencer Evans—clarinet, piano, accordion
Dean Stone—percussion
Luther Wright—banjo, harmonica, harmony vocals

Produced by:

Sarah Harmer

Comments:

it's a nice rekkid—acoustic, country-ish, old-timey and lovely. (woj@smoe.org)

Further info:

Sarah has done vocals on the following albums: Blue Rodeo's Days in Between (2000); Carolyn Mark's Party Girl (2000); Jim Cuddy's All in Time (1998); the Rheostatics' Story of Harmelodia (1999); the Skydiggers' Desmond's Hip City (1997).


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry

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