If there were still a Lilith Fair, Sarah Harmer would no doubt be one of the star performers at the women’s fest. The Canadian singer-songwriter has a voice that effortlessly soars and floats over songs that are plump with purpose — traits that enabled Sarah McLachlan to become a performer who attracts amphitheater-sized auds. These days, it’s unlikely that any songs from Harmer’s new “All of Our Names” (Zoe/Rounder) will become a runaway hit, but that seems to suit her just fine; she acts downright content playing her songs to a smallish audience that knows all the words.
The key to Harmer’s best songs is subtlety: A splash cymbal here or an upright bass drop there lend songs like “Almost” some welcome diversity without becoming overbearing. Her songs meander through roads and over rivers, with diversions in relationship land and into other not-quite heady topics (in a solo acoustic portion of the show, she sang directly, in two completely separate songs, about oleanders and dogs).
But her light-on-her-feet approach and casual demeanor give her songs an intimacy that feels natural and welcome. To most artists, this kind of out-in-front honesty could be a burden, but it seems to make Harmer feel even more comfortable.