I’m a Mountain
Sarah Harmer is one perplexing national treasure. She makes us wait four years between the classic You Were Here (2000) and its more politically minded follow-up, All of Our Names. Then she hints that she is making a follow-up to her side project Songs for Clem, the LP she made for her dad in 1999, and she will make music alongside him this time and call it Songs with Clem. Then she realizes she’s got a whole batch of material, and bam — at the end of the year, one blessed week before the cutoff date for Juno nominations (it’s going to be all Nickelback and OLP, people, so cherish these victories) — she drops the gorgeous I’m A Mountain, a compilation of bluegrass-driven covers, original compositions and delicate French ballads for a record unlike anything released in this country in 2005. Well played, lady. Harmer mostly forgoes her slow-burning heartbreaking laments, choosing to kill you softly with her banjo (wielded by ex- band- and lifemate Luther Wright, whose “Luther’s Got the Blues” is covered here). But that doesn’t mean there’s any less emotion. “I Am Aglow” is a cheery jig about unrequited love; “Oleander,” a longtime live staple, is an homage to the beautiful, deadly plant; the soaring, elegiac closer “How Deep in the Valley” philosophizes “How deep in the valley must you go, to find what your footsteps already know?” A trilling cover of Dolly Parton’s “Will He be Waiting for Me” is a highlight, as is the Kate Fenner-penned “Salamandre,” the best song ever written about a creature that’s really kind of gross. Escaping countryfication is Harmer’s pretty, pretty honey-voice, clear and clean and fresh as mountain air.