Harmer out to protect sensitive escarpment

Folk singer Sarah Harmer aims to take listeners to a higher place. The Kingston, Ont. resident has written at least one protest song — Escarpment Blues, about her opposition to the proposed gravel mining of a section of the Niagara Escarpment. But she generally doesn’t get too political through her music.

Sarah Harmer will be in Red Deer Sept. 18.

Sarah Harmer will be in Red Deer Sept. 18.

Folk singer Sarah Harmer aims to take listeners to a higher place.

The Kingston, Ont. resident has written at least one protest song — Escarpment Blues, about her opposition to the proposed gravel mining of a section of the Niagara Escarpment. But she generally doesn’t get too political through her music.

Harmer’s tunes are mostly about the complicated feelings brought on by the ebb and flow of relationships, or the loneliness of time and space.

“I like how you can be transported through music, how it moves you and gets into your mind and psyche. The way it can be an escape . . .”

Harmer, who performs Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Memorial Centre in Red Deer, said she particularly likes music “that’s not about the lyrics, but is just about emotion and energy . . .

“I know there are certain moments when I have a CD on and it can be a real trip out of the regular day-to-day,” said Harmer, “I guess I feel lucky to be part of that industry.”

Over the last few years, the 39-year-old singer has been helping out musician friends including Neko Case, Howie Beck, The Weakerthans, and the Great Lake Swimmers by doing a lot of backup singing for their albums.

It’s been a great change of pace, said Harmer, who finds a lot of inspiration in working with others.

But it’s been a long time between recordings for Harmer.

Her current CD oh little fire came out in June, some five years after her fourth album, I’m a Mountain, was released in 2005 to great reviews and three Juno Award nominations

“It was really good to get rolling on a bunch of new songs (about) vague things and particular things,” said Harmer, who never consciously wanted to take such a long break. But she added the escarpment project “was a little interesting and complex and compelling.

“And time goes by . . .”

In 2005 Harmer formed the group PERL (Protecting Escarpment Rural Land) to fight the gravel mining plan.

So far, she said every level of government, except the Province of Ontario, has rejected it. The proposal is now going to a provincial hearing, “so we’re not out of the woods yet.” Still, Harmer must feel enough pressure easing to have turned her thoughts back to songwriting.

And it’s high time.

On the song Careless from oh little fire she sings “All the words that I’ve held too close to my chest/ Are calling on me now to get through.”

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert at the Memorial Centre are $41.30 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com