The first sound you’ll hear on oh little fire is a high-pitched keening, like the shrieking of an unattended phone, or the distant skirling of a ghost on a winter night. Suddenly, Sarah Harmer’s band kicks in, with drums propelling a gust of rock more forceful than anything she’s played since her mid-‘90s days with rambunctious Kingston rockers Weeping Tile. She sings with a sense of purpose: “A new wind will blow through everything / Through everything I know.”
On oh little fire, her first album in five years, Harmer sounds reinvigorated and positively charged. In the years after touring her last studio release, the Polaris Prize-nominated I’m a Mountain, she set music aside to focus on political and environmental campaigns, helping to shepherd PERL (Protecting Escarpment Rural Land), the organization she co-founded. Only on occasion did she venture into the studio, lending backup vocals to artists such as Neko Case, Howie Beck, and Great Lake Swimmers. Her own music and lyrics were waiting for the opportune time to burst out: as she sings on “Careless,” “All the words that I’ve held too close to my chest / Are calling on me now to get through.”
On oh little fire, she uses the spark of inspiration to light musical fireworks – the kind that glow brighter than the city’s shiniest billboards, that twinkle longer than the hardiest of the country’s fireflies, that linger with you through the gloomiest nights and drive the ghosts away.