Heaven Magazine

De sleutelmomenten van folkzangeres Sarah McQuaid
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Op het conto van de in Cornwall wonende singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid staan vier soloalbums en een duoalbum onder de naam Mama. Ook schreef ze een standaardwerk over gitaarstemmingen. Op haar jongste prachtplaat Walking Into White opteert McQuaid na het imponerende The Plum Tree And The Rose uit 2013 voor een meer poppy geluid. Voorafgaand aan haar Nederlandse optredens vroegen we haar naar vijf sleutelmomenten uit haar carrière.

Sleutelmoment 1: eerste solouitvoering van een lied van eigen hand - Locatie: National Cathedral School. Washington DC, U.S.A. - Betrokken personen: docenten, stafleden en studenten van de openbare meisjesschool

“Ik was veertien of vijftien toen dit plaatsvond. Ik had al veel ervaring opgedaan met optreden voor publiek als lid van het Chicago Children's Choir, maar dit was de eerste keer dat ik solo voor een publiek stond om een lied te brengen dat ik zelf op gitaar geschreven had. Hoe het komt dat ik op een maandagochtend om acht uur een van mijn eigen liedjes speelde, weet ik niet. Ook ben ik vergeten welk lied ik had uitgekozen. Wat in mijn herinnering is blijven hangen, is het gevoel van een verschrikkelijke angst die mij in zijn greep had. Ik wist niet of er geluid uit mijn mond zou komen als ik die opende en of mijn vingers de juiste handelingen zouden verrichten. Mijn angst bleek ongegrond, alles ging goed en ik kreeg een groot applaus. Ik leerde op dat moment te vertrouwen op mijn stem en mijn vingers, ongeacht hoe nerveus ik me voel.”

Sleutelmoment 2: de ontdekking van DADGAD - Locatie: een festival ergens in Bretagne, Frankrijk - Betrokken persoon: een Franse gitarist wiens naam ze vergeten is

“Als tiener luisterde ik veel naar Joni Mitchell en musici van het platenlabel Windham Hill, onder wie Michael Hedges, Willy Ackerman en Alex de Grassi. Ik wist dat zij in open stemmingen speelden. Ik experimenteerde met willekeurige stemmingen op mijn gitaar met verschillende noten om te kijken wat dat opleverde. Tijdens mijn studie in Frankrijk trad ik op met de in dat land gevestigde Ierse band Mixed Brew. Backstage raakte ik op een festival in Bretagne aan de praat met een blonde Franse gitarist wiens naam ik me niet meer herinner. Hij adviseerde mij de stemming DADGAD uit te proberen omdat alle Ierse musici deze stemming gebruiken. Ik stemde mijn gitaar en beleefde een eurekamoment. Plotseling kon ik al die klanken produceren die ik zoveel jaren tevergeefs had geprobeerd te maken.”

Sleutelmoment 3: Luka Bloom observeren terwijl hij met het publiek communiceert - Locaties: An Créagan, Creggan, Omagh, County Tyrone, Noord Ierland - Betrokken personen: Luka Bloom, Paul Ashe-Brown en een massaal publiek.

“In de winter van 2001 nodigde Luka Bloom mij uit als zijn voorprogramma tijdens een korte tournee door Ierland. Vanaf het balkon naast het mengpaneel van geluidtechnicus Paul Ashe-Browne zag ik hoe Luka op magische wijze communiceerde met zijn publiek. Ik dacht direct dat ik ook op zo'n manier wilde leren communiceren met mijn eigen publiek. Ook zag ik het belang in van een eigen geluidstechnicus. Ik heb het geluk dat ik de laatste vijf jaar begeleid word door de getalenteerde geluidtechnicus Martin Stansbury, die tevens mijn tourmanager is.”

Sleutelmoment 4: ontmoeting met Dick Gaughan - Locatie: The Strandhill Guitar Festival, County Sligo, Ierland - Betrokken personen: Dick Gaughan, Séamie O'Dowd, Felip Carbonell en deelnemers aan een DADGAD-workshop

“In de zomer van 2006 kreeg ik een uitnodiging van mijn bevriende gitaristen Séamie O'Dowd en Felip Carbonell om tijdens een gitaarfestival een workshop gitaarstemming in DADGAD te geven. Toen ze mij vertelden dat ik deze workshop mocht leiden samen met Dick Gaughan - een van mijn helden - , verdwenen al mijn reserves als sneeuw voor de zon. Na afloop van de workshop vroeg Dick mij waarom ik niet zelf tourde. Ik zei dat ik niet vermoedde dat er een markt was voor mijn muziek. Hij was ervan overtuigd dat er wél een publiek was. Drie maanden later zegde ik mijn baan op en werd ik een fulltime muzikant.”

Sleutelmoment 5: samen componeren met Zoë - Locatie: haar keuken in het platteland nabij Penzance, Cornwall, Engeland - Andere betrokken persoon: Zoë

“Toen ik naar het landelijke Cornwall verhuisde in 2007 was Zoë een van de eerste personen die ik leerde kennen, omdat onze kinderen dezelfde school bezochten. Pas na verloop van tijd ontdekte ik dat zij een voormalige popster was, bekend van de zelfgeschreven hitsingle Sunshine On A Rainy Day. Aan de keukentafel speelde ze een lied waarvan ik de melodie prachtig vond, maar de tekst niet begreep. “Maar ik heb er ook geen tekst voor, dit zijn gewoon onzinregels”, zei ze. Op mijn vraag of ze passende liedregels wilde, antwoordde ze met een volmondig: “Yes, please, that would be great!” Binnen een paar maanden hadden we samen genoeg liedjes geschreven voor een album dat we uitbrachten onder de groepsnaam Mama. Dor mijn samenwerking met Zoë beschouw ik mezelf sindsdien niet alleen als een folkzangeres maar tevens als een liedjesschrijfster.”

Sarah McQuaid live: 26 februari in Café Peter en Leni, Steendam; 5 maart in De Lantaern, Zevenaar; 19 maart in De Vermaning, Zaandam; 20 maart in Tiliander, Oisterwijk.

The key moments of folk singer Sarah McQuaid
To the credit of Cornwall-based singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid are four solo albums and a duo album under the band name Mama. She also wrote a standard work on guitar tunings. On her recent stunner Walking Into White, McQuaid opts after the impressive The Plum Tree And The Rose (2013) for a more poppy sound. Prior to her Dutch performances, we asked her about five key moments of her career.

Key Moment 1: First Solo Performance of an Original Song - Location: National Cathedral School, Washington, DC, USA - Other Persons Involved: Teachers, staff and fellow students at the National Cathedral School, an independent all-girls school in Washington, DC

“I think I was fourteen or fifteen years old when this moment took place. By that time I already had extensive experience of performing in public as a member of the Chicago Children’s Choir, but this was the first time I ever stood up in public and sang and played a song I’d written on the guitar. I can’t remember how it came about that I performed one of my own songs at a school assembly at 8am one Monday morning – did a teacher suggest it, or did I come up with the idea myself? I’ve no idea which, or even what song it was. What sticks in my memory, though, is that feeling of being absolutely terrified, of not knowing whether any sound would come out when I opened my mouth and not knowing whether my fingers would find their way to the right frets and strings. But they did, and I got a big round of applause. I learned in that moment to trust my voice and my hands to do their job, no matter how nervous I feel.”

Key Moment 2: Discovering DADGAD - Location: A festival somewhere in Brittany, France - Other Persons Involved: A French guitarist whose name I can’t remember

“As a teenager I listened a lot to Joni Mitchell, and also to Windham Hill artists like Michael Hedges, Willy Ackerman and Alex de Grassi. I knew that they all used various different “open tunings”, and I used to experiment with randomly tuning my guitar strings to different notes and seeing what I could do. When I was 18 I went to study in France for a year and wound up becoming the singer/guitarist with a France-based Irish band called Mixed Brew. We had a gig at a festival somewhere in Brittany – I can’t remember exactly where, or what the festival was called – and I got chatting backstage with a French guitarist (whose name I can’t remember, although I do recall that he had blond hair) who said to me “You know, since you’re playing Irish music, you should try the DADGAD tuning. It’s what all the Irish players are using these days.” I tuned the guitar to DADGAD and it was one of those lightbulb “Eureka!” moments – suddenly I could make all the sounds I’d been trying and failing to make for so many years.”

Key Moment 3: Watching Luka Bloom Connect With An Audience - Location: An Créagan, Creggan, Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland - Other Persons Involved: Luka Bloom, Paul Ashe-Browne and a packed audience

“In the winter of 2001, Luka Bloom invited me to come along on a short tour of Ireland as his support act. The timing was good as I’d taken a three-month sabbatical from my magazine editing job to work on writing a novel, so I accompanied him and his touring sound engineer, Paul Ashe-Browne, for a week of gigs. The first of those gigs was at An Créagan near Omagh, where I’ve since played several times as headliner rather than support! I remember standing up in the balcony beside Paul’s sound desk, watching how magically Luka connected with his audience and thinking “That’s what I need to learn to do.” You could almost see a sort of electrical current between him and the people listening. It was also there that I learned the importance of bringing a good sound engineer with you, and again I remember thinking that I would make sure to do the same thing if I ever became a touring artist. And I did: I’ve been privileged to have the very talented Martin Stansbury working with me as sound engineer and tour manager for over five years now.”

Key Moment 4: Meeting Dick Gaughan - Location: The Strandhill Guitar Festival, County Sligo, Ireland - Other Persons Involved: Dick Gaughan, Séamie O’Dowd, Felip Carbonell and DADGAD workshop participants

“When I was pregnant with my first child, my belly got too big for me to hold a guitar comfortably, and after he was born I was too preoccupied with being a mum to even think about music, especially after his sister came along. But in the summer of 2006 I got a phone call from my friends and fellow guitarists Séamie O’Dowd and Felip Carbonell. They said that they were organising a guitar festival and wanted me to give a DADGAD guitar workshop. I was all set to say I couldn’t do it as I hadn’t played my guitar in over four years, but then they said I’d be co-presenting the workshop with Dick Gaughan, one of my musical heroes. I knew I’d be kicking myself for the rest of my life if I said no, so I said yes, and it changed my future. When we finished the workshop, Dick Gaughan asked me why I wasn’t out touring. I said I didn’t think there’d be any market for my music. He said “I know there would.” Three months later I handed in my notice at my job and became a full time musician. I still am.”

Key Moment 5: Co-Writing with Zoë - Location: My kitchen in the countryside near Penzance, Cornwall, England - Other Persons Involved: Zoë

“When I moved to rural Cornwall in 2007, one of the first people I met was Zoë. We met because our children were going to the same tiny school – fewer than 30 children in the entire school – and it was only after I’d got to be friends with her that I discovered that she was a former pop star, best known as the composer and performer of 1991 hit single “Sunshine on a Rainy Day.” Sitting at my kitchen table one day, she played me a new song she’d just written. I told her I loved the melody but couldn’t understand the lyrics she was singing, and she said “Oh, I don’t have any lyrics for it – those are just nonsense words.” I said “Well, would you like some lyrics for it?” She said “Yes, please, that would be great!” and within a few months we’d written a full album’s worth of songs together, which we released under the band name Mama. Prior to co-writing with Zoë, I’d thought of myself as a folk singer who happened to write an occasional song; it was working with Zoë that made me start to think of myself as a songwriter.”

Sarah McQuaid live: 26 February in Café Peter en Leni, Steendam; 5 March in De Lantaern, Zevenaar; 19 March in De Vermaning, Zaandam; 20 March in Tiliander, Oisterwijk.

Western Morning News on Sunday

Sarah_McQuaid_Western_Morning_News_Nov_2015
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MacWood Fleet Music Blog

NOTE: Click here to see full article including embedded videos.
Live In 2015: Sarah McQuaid - Live at The Convent on Friday 6th November 2015
I have wanted to visit The Convent at South Woodchester near Stroud for some time. It is quickly becoming a Destination Venue for the discerning musician wanting to play in the west of the UK. Coming over the bridge from Wales it is only a 1 hour 40 minute drive from my home near Swansea.

The brainchild of Matt & Charlotte Roberts, it is a sensational music venue with fantastic acoustics, beautiful architecture and the added attraction of being the base of NetGig which gives the artists the opportunity to broadcast the gig live which can be viewed live or for seen days thereafter at a small cost. Plus a rather gorgeous boutique hotel complex thrown in for good measure. I've seen several of the NetGigs which have all been excellent but nothing prepares you for the 'live' experience of attending a gig in The Convent.

And I must admit I picked a gem of a gig for my first Convent experience.

Sarah McQuaid - born in Spain, raised in Chicago, USA who formerly lived in Ireland and now a resident of Cornwall in the UK hot off the heels of a successful USA tour played The Convent as part of a short autumn UK tour in support of her latest album, the sublime Walking Into White.

Drawing on songs from throughout her 5 album career, which includes one recorded with Zoe (of Sunshine On A Rainy Day fame) under the name of MAMA, Walking Into White is her fourth solo album.

Tonight, it was just Sarah and her guitar. Shorn of some of the unusual production techniques and touches, especially on the Walking Into White album, the performance tonight showed just how strong the songs are. I would love an album of just Sarah and guitar in the future. It's an intimate and rewarding experience.

The evening started with The Sun Goes On Rising from her third album The Plum Tree And The Rose. Sarah has a crystal clear voice throughout the evening, it's a beautiful instrument and has richness of a multi-coloured tapestry of sound.

Using sparing loops and effects tonight added just the right amount of variation required to keep the audience (both in The Convent & online) intrigued.

You could have heard a pin drop throughout the entire performance as Sarah weaved her magic. In fact - you can catch the whole performance here - as well as visit past performances and future ones too. All for just a small fee.

Next up was a lovely song - one of many from the latest album called The Tide.

For this latest album, Sarah has changed producers and has enrolled her cousin Adam Pierce & Jeremy Backofen who have introduced a multitude of new sounds and approaches to her new album.

Several of the songs on Walking Into White are based around experiences from reading several of the books in the Swallows & Amazons series by Arthur Ransome.

I Am Grateful For What I Have is a lovely instrumental piece from the new album and here in The Convent, it sounds truly beautiful. The sound quality in The Convent is just world class and upon viewing the concert you'll see just how good it is.

On Walking Into White there are three short a capella sections called Sweetness & Pain Parts 1-3; Part 1 introduces the title track Walking Into White. On the album, it is accompanied by a lone trumpet (or cornet) but here with just a lone acoustic guitar - it is truly captivating.

2015 has certainly been a vintage year for the female singer/songwriters - with superb albums from artists such as Bella Hardy, Ange Hardy, Olivia Chaney, Vanessa Peters. And to this list you can add Sarah McQuaid who has really pushed the boundaries of her own artistry with Walking Into White. Tonight's show features many of the tracks on the new album and the next track is one of my favourites on the album - Jackdaws Rising.

Sarah states that some reviewers of the album have said that it's almost impossible to play live and then goes on to play a superb version of the song using a stomp board and loops to accompany her shining acoustic guitar. Simply breathtaking.

One of the delights of a Convent show is that they are broadcast live over the internet and you have the opportunity to purchase the show to watch over a seven day period - with this in mind, Matt and his team select a couple of videos from the show to put onto YouTube. Tonight's selection includes the earlier The Tide and the next song up Yellowstone, which Sarah explains has a direct connection to her son.

Sarah likes to record and play a cover version and tonight she includes several in her set - the next song that Sarah plays is a delicious version of Jean Ritichie's Blue Diamond Mines.

Although the majority of tonight's set concentrates on the new album - Sarah also dips into her first album When Two Lovers Meet and gives us Johnny Lad.

Sarah then turns to her second album, I Won't Go Home 'til Morning too with a spirited version of Only An Emotion.

Sarah now lives down in Cornwall - and I don't want to give away the stories that Sarah tells in her show but one I cannot help telling for obvious reasons is the fact that Sarah has recorded an album with Zoe Pollock, who is a neighbour, - now this Zoe is the one of Sunshine On A Rainy Day fame and Sarah includes the title track from that project - Crow Coyote Buffalo tonight.

In Yellowstone, Sarah sang about an incident with her young. With the final song in the set - track one from her The Plum Tree & The Rose album - Lift You Up And Let You Fly - is about her daughter and was incredibly moving. You could indeed literally hear a pin drop and I'm sure I saw several people with tears in their eyes after this song.

My favourite track on Walking Into White is Leave It For Another Day and I was SO glad that Sarah decided to play this live. And it was equally as stunning live.

As I stated earlier, Sarah does like a cover version and for the first song of a two song encore she gives a receptive Convent audience a truly gorgeous version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, which is also the final track on Walking Into White.

The final song of a truly gorgeous set tonight was a version of the crooner classic Mr Bojangles - I've never heard an acoustic guitar version of this song - my favourite has always been the Sammy Davis Jnr version - but this was unexpected and excellent.

And there endth my first Convent gig - and it definitely won't be the last - as I've got several booked over the next few months - it's a gorgeous venue with superb sound and atmosphere. Get yourself down there.

And it won't be the last time I see Sarah McQuaid either - she's a captivating performer with a gorgeous voice, superb collection of albums and a truly adventurous musical nature. Seek her out, right now.

Western Morning News

Sarah_McQuaid_Western_Morning_News_Oct_2015
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The Long Journey

Walking Into White
Artista: Sarah McQuaid
Label: Waterbug WBG119
Anno: 2015
Stili: Singer Songwriter/Folk
(English translation appears below Italian original.)
Sarah McQuaid è una cantante ed autrice di ispirazione folk nata a Madrid da padre spagnolo e madre americana, cresciuta a Chicago e, nel corso degli anni, vissuta in Irlanda, nell’Indiana e attualmente in Cornovaglia, mostrando un particolare e propositivo approccio chitarristico e una vena compositiva che deve molto all’Inghilterra e ai suoi figli più ‘nobili’ nell’ambito degli intrecci tra melodie folk e inflessioni pop e jazz, da John Martyn a Nick Drake.

Quattro album all’attivo tra cui questo Walking Into White considerato il più emozionale e completo, ricco come è di personalità e di colori affascinanti, tutti o quasi virati al pastello. Forti connessioni con il mondo letterario, arrangiamenti volutamente scarni ed evocativi, una voce apparentemente con poca estensione ma capace di risultare fascinosa nella sua malinconia e nella nostalgia e struggimento che richiama.

La canzone che da il titolo a questa raccolta rimanda al primo Bruce Cockburn, quello più marcatamente legato al folk, con la tromba di Gareth Flowers che aggiunge un tocco di impronta jazz, Where The Wind Decide To Blow è tra le migliori con il suo andamento schietto e lineare, ancora una volta tipicamente britannico, Jackdaws Rising con il suo rincorrersi di voci e di battiti di mani è un altro episodio da ricordare per originalità e audacia. Lo strumentale I Am Grateful For What I Have gioca sulle emozioni risultando piacevolissimo e godibile, così come Yellowstone che riporta alla mente il Nick Drake di Bryter Layter, con la chitarra classica di Dan Lippel a tessere la melodia. Quasi tutto il materiale contenuto in questo Walking Into White è firmato dalla stessa Sarah McQuaid, ad eccezione del tradizionale Canticle Of The Sun, chiaramente ispirato al Cantico delle Creature di francescana memoria e la conclusiva, splendida, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, scritta da Ewan McColl per Peggy Seeger e qui riletta in completa solitudine.

Un lavoro dalle notevoli qualità e profondità, uno di quelli che cresce molto ascolto dopo ascolto e sarà un piacevole compagno nelle fredde notti invernali.

Sarah McQuaid is a folk-oriented singer-songwriter, born in Madrid to a Spanish father and an American mother, raised in Chicago, who over the years has lived in Ireland, in Indiana and (currently) in Cornwall. She displays a unique and proactive guitar approach and a songwriting vein that owes much to England and its ‘noblest’ sons of both folk and jazz, from Nick Drake to John Martyn.

She has recorded four albums; the latest of these, Walking Into White, is probably her most emotional and mature, rich in personality and in fascinating colours, mostly veering towards pastels. Strong connections with the literary world, deliberately spare and evocative arrangements, a voice with an apparently small range that’s capable of fascinating results in the melancholy, nostalgia and yearning it evokes.

The title track reminds me of the early, more folk-oriented Bruce Cockburn, with Gareth Flowers on trumpet adding a touch of a jazz stamp; Where The Wind Decides To Blow is among the best with its candid and straightforward feel; another typically English number, Jackdaws Rising, with its intertwining voices and handclaps, is another song that deserves to be remembered for its originality and audacity. The instrumental I Am Grateful For What I Have plays once again on the emotions with delightful and enjoyable results, as also does Yellowstone with its Nick Drake Bryter Layter-era feel, with Dan Lippel’s excellent classical guitar weaving the melody. Almost every song on Walking Into White was composed by Sarah McQuaid, with the exception of Canticle Of The Sun, clearly inspired by the Franciscan Cantico delle Creature, and the splendid album closer The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, written by Ewan McColl for Peggy Seeger, here performed entirely solo.

A work of notable quality and depth, one that grows with each listen, and it will certainly be a refreshing and pleasant companion during the cold winter nights.

The Huffington Post

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Sarah McQuaid Tours and Enchants With Her Brilliant New Album, Walking Into White
Finding treasure feels great, and such is the case with musician Sarah McQuaid. The soulful singer, smart and sensuous songwriter, and scintillating guitarist has been hidden in plain sight with three gorgeous solo albums, and her fourth -- the recently-released, critically-acclaimed Walking Into White -- reveals a truly magnificent artist primed to enchant the masses. Sarah's current U.S. tour continues through October before she carries on in the U.K., and listen: I've attended hundreds of concerts of all kinds, and her subtle mastery onstage launches her straight into my fave shows ever. One voice, one guitar, and the wondrous reminder of the magic of music. Sarah has the gift.

While Mrs. McQuaid and her Jedi-esque manager-engineer Martin Stansbury log thousands of highway miles, it's my pleasure to join them for terrific Thai cuisine and discuss the storied life and career of this focused yet easygoing chanteuse. We promptly explore Walking Into White:

"It was new territory for me in a number of ways," reveals Sarah. "I was working with my cousin, Adam Pierce, as producer, whereas the previous three albums were all recorded in Ireland with Gerry O'Beirne producing, and this one was recorded in Cornwall, New York, with Adam producing. Another change is that the previous albums were all made over fairly sizable periods of time -- where I would kind of go in, and do a recording session, and then come back out, and then go back in and record some more."

"With Walking Into White," the artist continues, "I already was in a really hectic tour schedule when the album was being planned, and over the few years in between The Plum Tree and the Rose and Walking Into White, I was constantly jotting down song ideas -- both using audio memos on my phone, jotting down little melodic ideas, and chord progressions and so on -- and also writing down bits of lyrics. Because the tour schedule was so hectic, I hadn't finished a single song by the time we booked the studio time. We really just had 15 days in three weeks to do the whole thing: to record and mix the album. That actually turned out to be a really good way of working, and I'm going to do that again.

"Because the songs were all written in one intensive session, I think they fit together really well, and I think also I was conscious of making them all quite different from each other, in terms of: rhythmically, and what keys they're in, and what I was doing with the guitar, and what the general feel of the song was. I was thinking, 'I'm putting a suite of music together, and I want to make sure there's plenty of variety and contrast.' And also they all came out of the same kind of creative space, in a way, if that's not too airy-fairy a way to talk."

For new songs "Where the Wind Decides to Blow," "The Tide," and the title track, Sarah illuminates in her new album a literary inspiration perhaps unfamiliar to American audiences.

"It reflects a moment in time, and what themes are running through my head, and I guess one big theme would be the natural world and how we interact with it: partly because I was reading this series of books to my kids -- Swallows and Amazons, which are all written by Arthur Ransome -- and thinking about how a lot of situations in the books were kind of wonderful kind of metaphors for life, you know -- and metaphors drawn from the natural world."

Born in Spain, Sarah grew up in Chicago and Washington, D.C., before carrying on through disparate locales such as France, Pennsylvania, and Ireland -- eventually settling in England's west country. Since she impressively cites the decidedly-not-Disneyfied Wind and the Willows chapter, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" as an inspiration for "Pipe and Tabor" (from her album Crow Coyote Buffalo, with singer Zoë Pollock, together as duo Mama), I ask if she also grew up with the Swallows and Amazons series.

"My husband had read them as a kid," she clarifies. "They were written back in the '20s and '30s, and they'd been read to my husband by his mum, and at some stage, when the kids were young, my in-laws, his parents, gave us a box set of all 13 books. He was like, 'Oh, these are great!' And I had never come across them, because I don't think they really made it over to this country. They're very English books -- and they're of their time. There are a few politically incorrect moments in them -- which I kind of fudged over when reading them aloud to my kids. (laughs) With asides of, 'Now, this is the way people used to talk in those days.' (laughs) 'We don't do this anymore.'"

"And songs that aren't drawn from the Swallows and Amazons series," Sarah elaborates, "like 'Yellowstone' was inspired by a thing my son wrote on a piece of paper. Basically he was lying awake at night and worrying about things, so I said to him -- because this had worked for me -- I said, 'Why don't you try writing down your worries on different pieces of paper, and once they're written down, they're on the paper, and they don't have to be in your head anymore.' He did that, and that worked for him, but of course I being his mother had to go and look through the bits of paper where he'd written down the things that he was worried about. And one of the things that he was worried about was this underground volcano underneath Yellowstone, and the danger that it would erupt and somehow set off a chain reaction of volcanoes."

Sarah notes that at the show I attended, a geologist approached and explained to her that her son's elaborate chain-reaction concerns were unfounded. But still that volcano is potentially problematic. I ask how her son found out about it.

"Well, he's an inveterate reader of Wikipedia," she laughs. "So, we don't have TV at all, but we do have computers, and he's a mine of information which he gets off Wikipedia. He comes up with the maddest things like: gummy bears came up in conversation one time. I don't know -- somebody mentioned gummy bears. Were you talking about Haribo, Martin?"

"I think we were talking about Haribo," responds the stalwart Martin. "We'd been in Germany."

"You want peanut sauce?" knowingly asks the server.

Affirmative on the peanut sauce. Sarah cheerfully continues:

"Somebody was talking about gummy bears, and my son said: 'Gummy bears were invented by so-and-so in such a year, by somebody in Germany in 1926' or whatever -- and I was like, 'Really?! Let's see if he's right!' and I got out my phone, and looked it up, and he was right."

I let slip a flash of sincere wonder.

"He just has the most amazing ability to retain information," adds Sarah.

One of the standout songs on Walking Into White is "Jackdaws Rising," which makes for brilliant and unusual performance material, with Sarah delivering its polyrhythms via stomps and handclaps, plus a round of three simultaneous verses, all looped live by maestro Martin. I ask if she's dealing in metaphor, but not particularly: these jackdaws really swoop where she lives, and this is a word painting.

"I'm just describing what I see. I guess the kind of metaphorical bit, where I get kind of dreamy about it, is I'm thinking about the whole thing of twilight, and the whole thing about the crossing of worlds, and that this is the time when there's a window through to the spirit world, and it's supposed to be the time when all the ghosts are about, as well. It feels kind of spooky, because -- you can imagine, this cloud of black birds suddenly all flying up at once into the sky, and making huge amounts of noise, and then they [whooshing sound effect] back into the tree again. It's an amazing time."

("Damn, you're cool," silently reflects the journalist. "Why aren't more people cool like you?")

In closing, I ask the inspiration for the album's lovely opener, "Low Winter Sun."

"'Low Winter Sun' -- that also is kind of a word picture of a very specific time and place. It's driving up the hill from my house up to the nearest village -- especially in winter, when the sun is low. As you're driving up the hill, the sun just hits you straight on in the face, and blinds you, and you can't see anything. And there's these wonderful kind of stunted hawthorn trees, and the wind has shaped them, so they're kind of curved over. And when it's winter, and the branches are really clearly outlined, and the sun is hitting you in the face, you see this branch shape against the light, and it's just really stark and very intense.

"It's funny," smiles Sarah, patient as her Pad Thai cools, "because I try to write songs that are universal in the sense that anybody can listen to them, and feel like it's about their life in some way, but with imagery, I tend to pick on a particular, very specific piece of imagery. But hopefully my emotional reaction to that very specific image is similar to the emotional reaction another person would have to the same image. So if I describe the image, then maybe the emotion can be universal.

"If that makes any sense!"

Yes, Sarah McQuaid is a major discovery, her devotion to songcraft impressive, her nuanced delivery grounded yet heavenly. As music magazine The Living Tradition aptly put it, Sarah is world class. And she's presently touring. Seeking treasure? Here you go.

Music Road

Folk with edge: Sarah McQuaid: Walking into White
Time of changing seasons, a turn of light, a lift in the air, time of telling stories...

Sarah McQuaid tells her stories through word and melody rhythm and tone and timbre. For her fourth recording, which she has called Walking Into White, she found inspiration from sources as different as the landscape of Yellowstone, the flight of jackdaws, a pattern used for ringing church bells, and stories she has been reading to her children.

The title song, a story which spins out in McQuaid’s imagination into an elegant and spare meditation on the nature of trust, began with an image of two children walking across moorland and being caught in a fog. She drew this from a story by Arthur Ransome which she came across in one of his tales, part of a series she’d been reading to her children each night at bedtime. It seemed to her, she says in her liner notes, “like a parable for life... so much so that I decided to make it the title track of this album.”

All this is framed in McQuaid’s distinctive alto and her DADGAD guitar playing. That’s a tuning which often contributes to Celtic music’s haunting aspect and one of which McQuaid is a master. Throughout the album, these elements anchor adventures both in story and in the way the music is presented.

Traveling from her base in Cornwall, England to Cornwall, New York to work for the first time with producers Adam Pierce (who is McQuaid’s cousin) and Jeremy Backofen, who had not worked in the folk genre before, McQuaid and her road manger and sound engineer Martin Stansbury created a collection which weaves in rhythms and sonic placements you might not expect from and artist known as a folk musician. All the while, though, they stayed true to the spirit and ideas of the songs while creating an album that fits in as a natural next step in McQuaid’s musical progress

On her tours supporting the album (at this writing at the beginning of October, she’s in the midst of a US run; she regularly tours internationally). McQuaid has been devoting the first half of her concerts to playing music from the album as it is sequenced, moving from Low Winter Sun, in which her guitar rings in a pattern drawn from the peal church bells to frame atmospheric and enigmatic lyrics that suggest the beginning of a journey, to a sparse and distinctive take of Ewan MacColl’s classic love song The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.

Between those two Where the Wind Decides to Blow and The Tide find McQuaid taking further inspiration from images in Ransome’s stories to explore ideas of uncertainty, persistence, trust, and reading signs. There’s a lot going on both lyrically and musically, though the songs themselves are rather short, at three verses with a twice repeated chorus for Where the Wind Decides to Blow and six verses for The Tide. The singer raises as many questions as she answers. The idea of walking through and with uncertainty to find trust and connection comes up again in the song Yellowstone, which was in part inspired by conversations McQuaid had with her ten year old son. All of this leaves plenty of room for listeners to explore, and material upon which to reflect.

That is true of each of the songs on Walking Into White, actually, including Sweetness and Pain, an a capella song whose three verses are spaced through the rest of the music at intervals, making a sort of recurring theme and comment which works both in word and melody. There’s also a very fine instrumental called I Am Grateful For What I Have.

Jackdaws Rising came about when McQuaid was playing music one evening with her friends Pete Coleman and Claire Hines. They got to playing an instrumental the pair had written and they suggested that if she wanted to write words to go along...

She was up to that challenge, and it went a step -- okay, several steps -- further when it came to recording the piece, which in lyric is dark and light, falling and rising. So are the production choices, with stamps and handclaps and rhythms which might seem out of time but actually work perfectly to express the energy of the lyric.

McQuaid’s voice is in varying ways the center of things through the recording, and that comes full circle as she draws things to a close with the hymn Canticle of the Sun and that take on The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. It’s a thoughtful journey Sarah McQuaid leads on Walking Into White, one filled with interest, surprise, and challenge, as she creates music well worth repeated listening.

Acoustic Guitar

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The Crimson White

Sarah McQuaid has intimate personal concert at Bama Theatre
Sarah McQuaid filled the humble Greensboro Room with the warmth of her music last Sunday evening, contributing to the already sultry weather. Dimly lit with some string lights, the room only had a bar and about 30 chairs; the “stage” was an open area less than a yard from the audience. While some may consider these less than ideal concert conditions, they resulted in an intimate setting that resembled a mere meeting amongst friends, allowing McQuaid’s music to shine.

Rather than blast her listeners with as much noise as possible, Sarah prefers to form a connection with her audience, much like a storyteller.

She started the show by performing her newest album, "Walking Into White," which exhibits the range of her talents. The wizardly Spanish guitar of “Yellowstone” and the pleasant Celtic guitar of the instrumental “I Am Grateful For What I Have” represent some of her traditional works, while the low-key electric guitar in the background of “Low Winter Sun” and echoes, stomps and claps of the sense-tingling “Jackdaws Rising” are emblematic of Sarah’s experimentation with new media. “Sweetness and Pain”, an acapella song split into three parts, highlighted McQuaid’s voice—the audience was enraptured with its ethereal sound.

In between songs Sarah chatted with the audience and shared the story behind each of her songs, often with a laugh and a smile.

After a short break she returned, only to connect with the audience even more. During “West Virginia Boys”, an Appalachian tune from her second album, she got fans to sing the last line of each verse, and in an unreleased cover of Jean Ritchie’s “Blue Diamond Mines”, she asked the audience to join in on the chorus—they were more than happy to oblige; Sarah said she got chills in her spine. Also notable was “Only an Emotion," McQuaid’s moving commentary on grief.

With her versatile guitar and steady, soothing voice, McQuaid gradually drew in her audience into almost a trance, her music and stories like a blanket keeping fans rapt in attention—coming unwound only when the night was over.

Ink 19

Sarah McQuaid
Walking Into White
Waterbug Records

For her fourth solo album Sarah McQuaid uses folk and Celtic styles as a starting point, and with producer and musician Adam Pierce (Mice Parade) along for the ride, they transform the expectations of the listener as they take the music onto new paths.

McQuaid's music is oft-times ethereal, in part because of her use of the DADGAD guitar tuning (popular in Irish music and the works of Pierre Bensusan) that creates drones using open strings, which McQuaid’s voice melds with as one. Opening with “Low Winter Sun” with a repeating guitar pattern based on a peal for church bells, Pierce adds some atmospheric electric guitar and keyboards, and what could be a simple “strum and hum” tune grows into something richer. “I Am Grateful For What I Have” blends Sarah’s guitar with a classical guitar played by Dan Lippel and a cello part from Kivic Cahn-Lipman, sounding in a fashion like a lost British folk era tune. “The Silver Lining” includes some of the most insightful lyrics I’ve heard in a while: “I am constantly amazed/By the providential nature/Of the choices that I didn’t think I made” atop a jazzy arrangement featuring Pierce again, this time on drums.

The album ends with Ewan MacColl’s beautiful love song, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, known primarily in America as performed by Roberta Flack, and McQuaid performs it solo, just her lilting voice and understated guitar. It’s a wonderful rendition, and brings this stellar album to a quiet, perfect close. Walking Into White might not make Sarah McQuaid a household name…but it should. Highly recommended.

Stereo Embers Magazine

SARAH McQUAID – “Walking Into White” (Waterbug Records)
A resilient album injecting tricky polyrhythmic indie impulses deep into an already deep folk consciousness (or is it the other way around?), nimbly adapting the allegories of classic children’s stories into full-on folk-pop narratives, and unshyly inviting a lively plethora of instrumental and percussive voices int the bountiful mix, Walking Into White crosses boundaries with a deft assurance of purpose. The result is an expansive and thoughtful turn that should bring a flock of fresh new listeners to a singer that those in the folk know have been clamoring about for some time now.

Sarah McQuaid’s fourth album finds the accomplished, diverse songstress traveling from Cornwall to Cornwall (UK to NY) to work with co-producers Jeremy Backofen and Adam Pierce (the singer’s cousin, as it happens) and one can hear brushstrokes scattered throughout of the former’s Frightened Rabbit/Felice Bros rustic rock background – “Where the Wind Decides to Blow”‘s jump into a down-home indie groove just past a minute in – and the sly adventurism of the latter’s Mice Parade/Múm instincts – the oddly-tempo’ed clap stomp treatment of “Jackdaws Rising,” complicated in its simplicity and hypnotic. Though decidedly a folk record and make no mistake, the influence of the non-folk production team makes for a record that has the spirit of a quiet brinkmanship blowing through it with a great finesse of heart.

“Low Winter Sun” bell-chimes with treated acoustic guitar (in McQuaid’s favored DADGAD tuning) and a breeze of vintage synth to enhance the rueful tone the piece rides on; the samba shuffle and crisp classical picking (Don Lippel) – not to mention the insect-wing snap of a cajón – lend the beautiful “Yellowstone” an easy intimate swing, an ideal bed in which to lay its lyrics’ efforts to allay her son’s world-ending worries while the singer’s own anxieties nag in parallel; follow-up (and single) “The Silver Lining” boasts a jerky-smooth upbeat tempo and some triumphant trumpet flourishes (Gareth Flowers) that sets its cautious optimism in a bright persistent light just beyond the clouds.

Hence the central joy of this record, as beneath the panoramic moods and the startling but unobtrusive studio wizardry – Walking Into White really is wonderfully produced – lies a fluid range of rich, poignantly drawn near-literary metaphors (a fair piece of the album’s themes were inspired by Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series) that underscore the truth of McQuaid’s voice as being as much one of a living doubting loving human being as one of traditional folkist reportage. It’s the crux of the folk-pop idiom and here it could not have been more astutely conceived (check “The Tide”‘s thinly-veiled, stuck-in-the-shallows cautions for more proof). Offering naturalism with a sheen of calm brilliance, Walking Into White transcends its native roots even as it plants the genre’s tendrils all that further into the loam.

The Vinyl District

Graded on a Curve: Sarah McQuaid, Walking into White
Born in Madrid, the multifaceted folk musician Sarah McQuaid was brought up in Chicago, studied in France, and after a lengthy stay in Ireland currently lives in Cornwall, England. Early in 2014 she traveled to Cornwall, New York to record a follow-up to 2012’s The Plum Tree and the Rose; the result is the trimmest release of her career as McQuaid continues to push the boundaries of an engaging and increasingly personal sound. Issued in the UK/Europe this past February, Walking into White is out now on CD in North America through Waterbug Records to coincide with a September-October US tour.

Borrowing a term from the realm of organized sports, or for those who simply can’t abide the playing of games, the performing arts, Sarah McQuaid is what’s known as a triple-threat; that is, she does three things extremely well, specifically sing, play guitar, and write songs, though she initially excelled more at the interpretation of traditional and even centuries old material.

To elaborate, 1997’s debut When Two Lovers Meet examined trad Irish sources and offered a fine balance of focus between the strength of McQuaid’s playing and the power of her voice, hitting peaks in the unaccompanied six-minute “Táim Cortha Ó Bheith Im’ Aonar Im’ Luí” and “The Parting Glass,” a closing duet with the esteemed Irish vocalist Niamh Parsons.

Backed by additional guitar and ukulele, cello and fiddle, keyboard and double bass, and those Irish standbys whistle and pipes, the sound is far from monochromatic, a circumstance abetted by the sole original composition. “Charlie’s Gone Home” is a decidedly more contempo folk proposition reminiscent of a ditty heard on the countertop radio while visiting the apartment of one’s favorite fifty-something hippie librarian aunt for Sunday brunch.

Many modern folkies consistently hang out on the sonic fringes, but McQuaid isn’t a bit timid over exploring mainstream possibilities, a quality that’s frankly refreshing. After moving to England in 2007 and rereleasing When Two Lovers Meet that year, she issued I Won’t Go Home ’til Morning in ’08. Dedicated to her late mother, instead of an Irish foundation the disc was devoted to its stylistic relative across the pond, old-time Appalachian folksong.

She added a few nicely done tunes of her own, a vibrant, reverent cover of Bobby Gentry’s AM radio staple “Ode to Billie Joe” and a swell “In the Pines” that could temporarily inspire a mind to forget it’s been recorded 38,000 times. Then a curveball of sorts spiraled out in ’09; Crow Coyote Buffalo was released as Mama in duo with Zoë, a Brit singer best known for the ’91 UK hit “Sunshine on a Rainy Day.”

It proved an intriguing psych-folk detour, but in ’12 McQuaid’s The Plum Tree and the Rose really brought the goodness, raising the number of originals to nine, deepening the rapport with her collaborators (Parsons is back, and Bill Blackmore’s flugelhorn and trumpet are recurring highlights), and including a terrific version of John Martyn’s tribute to Nick Drake, “Solid Air.” But perhaps its most impressive facet was in sounding both contemporarily informed and derived from well-aged stuff.

Make that ancient, as The Plum Tree and the Rose updated songs from the 13th, 16th, and 17th centuries. At a glance Walking into White seems to merely adjust the template of its predecessor; it features ten originals, two songwriting collaborations and two covers, one from last century and the other reaching all the way back to early nice guy St. Francis of Assisi.

Upon inspection the collection offers distinctive rewards, beginning with the spare but musically rich “Low Winter Sun,” McQuaid’s voice and picking intermingling with electric guitar and '80s model Sequential Circuits Pro-One synth from Adam Pierce, Walking into White’s co-producer with Jeremy Backofen.

Though Pierce is McQuaid’s cousin, this was their first time working together, a scenario extending to Backofen. Coming from a predominantly indie rather than folk background, the pair’s expertise nudges McQuaid into new territory; as “Low Winter Sun” progresses it exudes a touch of melancholy recalling the solo work of Kendra Smith.

And yet familiar, as the guitar remains striking; noted for extensively using and presenting workshops on the DADGAD tuning, she’s authored The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book, and has a second volume on the way. While the opener spotlights her instrumental acumen, the concise folk-rock of “Where the Wind Decides to Blow” emphasizes maturation as a writer.

It’s one of three tracks on Walking into White that were inspired by Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons children’s books; as read to her son and a daughter, there’s thankfully no preciousness to be found. Brisk even before Pierce’s drums kick in, “Where the Wind Decides to Blow” benefits from the attractively hearty nature of the singing, and likewise for “The Tide,” the second Ransome entry bursting with lyrical imagery and luminous fingerpicking.

“I Am Grateful for What I Have,” a solid instrumental matching McQuaid with the classical guitar of Dan Lippel and the cello of Kivie Cahn-Lipman, retains the brevity of Walking into White’s individual selections, an aspect intensified throughout the record by three sections of the a cappella piece “Sweetness and Pain,” all shorter than a minute as they intermittently reinforce the artist’s folk roots.

The title-cut wraps up the Swallows and Amazons songs and introduces the trumpet of Gareth Flowers in tandem with McQuaid’s voice and her particularly sharp guitar tones. “Jackdaws Rising” finds her adding lyrics and a vocal melody to a tune written by friends Pete Coleman and Clare Hines (of the band Brocc), and the finished product utilizes stomps and handclaps, combines 5/4 and 4/4 time and weaves the singing of McQuaid, Adele Schulz and Martin Stansbury.

It’s the most complexly layered track on the disc, and it gives way to an unexpected Spanish-hued treat of “Yellowstone.” Dedicated to her son, McQuaid’s words emit warmth and a hint of ache alongside Lippel and Pierce’s percussion via cajón. From there, the brass accented indie folk-rock of “The Silver Lining” reinvestigates the regions of “Where the Wind Decides to Blow,” while “Leave it for Another Day,” a writing collab with her former producer Gerry O’Beirne, provides an emotional climax employing just vocals and guitar.

The record closes on a pair of covers. The first, “Canticle of the Sun (All Creatures of Our God and King),” is based on of St. Francis’ words of 1225 and William Henry Draper’s adaptation as first published in the Public School Hymn Book of 1919. Wielding two air organs and a vibraphone plus McQuaid’s vox and axe, it’s a specimen of considerable gorgeousness that’s only fault its succinctness.

Second is a solo reading of Ewan MacColl’s ode to Peggy Seeger “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” the treatment’s gradually blossoming beauty vivid and tender in equal measure. Walking into White is another superb outing from Sarah McQuaid, an under-the-radar artist deserving of an audience reflective of her worldly scope.

GRADED ON A CURVE: A-

Invisible Ink Music Blog

Sarah McQuaid: Walking Into White
Fantastic Folk

Sarah McQuaid’s fourth album, Walking Into White, is as jaw-droppingly beautiful as it is transcontinental. To record it, she travelled from her adopted home of Cornwall, England (I’ve been there, and it is beautiful country) to Cornwall, New York, to cut the record in just less than three weeks, and work with co-producers Jeremy Backofen (Frightened Rabbit, Felice Brothers) and Sarah’s cousin Adam Pierce (Mice Parade, Tom Brosseau, Múm). The end result is an elegant album. Some of the songs are directly about youth: three of its songs were inspired by Arthur Ransome’s classic Swallows and Amazons series of children’s books. To that end, Walking Into White is a delicate album – one that fuses the jazz-folk stylings of Joni Mitchell with the tradition British folk music of, say, Fairport Convention. (Heck, even the phrase “turning of the tide” shows up, something that Richard Thompson has used in song, too.) So, even if a late summer release in the US is strange – it more appropriately showed up in Britain in early February – this is a record worth digging into . And, heck, even if these are more winter songs than summer songs, they will cool you off from the humidity nevertheless.

What makes this album sterling is the fact that it feels longer than its 37 minutes. The reason, I figure, is that these songs are generally short, running in the two-minute range, but they feel fully formed and fleshed out, so they often belie their brevity. However, there’s more to it than that. McQuaid isn’t afraid to reach out – “Where the Wind Decides to Blow” uses some cascading indie-sounding drums to first-rate effect. There are touches of classical guitar here and there, too, as well as some horns on “The Silver Lining”. Plus, McQuaid shucks norms by using a non-standard tuning on her guitar, giving it more of a jazzy feel. The end result – coupled with top-shelf songwriting – is a listen that is pure bliss. If anything, Walking Into White makes one want to dig deeper into her backcatalogue to hear if it is just as outstanding as this particular release. However, looking forward, it seems as though McQuaid should have a bright future ahead of her if she continues to drop albums as tender and gorgeous as this one. Walking Into White is perfect for those who miss old-style British folk and '70s folk, a genre that could use the kind of attention that McQuaid so gloriously gives it with A-list affection.

The Boston Globe

On new album, Sarah McQuaid turns folk tradition inside out
The ghosts of 1970s British folk-rock, particularly Sandy Denny and Nick Drake, haunt Sarah McQuaid’s luminous fourth album. “Walking Into White” opens with what sounds like a screen of static, as if to clear the canvas for the singer-songwriter’s plainspoken ruminations on life and death. It is a soft but forceful record whose urgency is sometimes masked by the music’s acoustic serenity. “Yellowstone” relays a 10-year-old boy’s fascination with nature, but its gentle samba beat belies the existential anxiety bubbling underneath. McQuaid, who was born in Spain, raised in the United States, and now lives in rural England, is not a strict folk classicist. As heard on the syncopated title track, her sophisticated spins on the genre recall the work of Sam Amidon. They’re both artists who honor tradition while illuminating why it endures and how it can be molded into new and original work.

The Big Takeover

Sarah McQuaid - Walking Into White (Waterbug)
UK-based folk singer/guitarist, Sarah McQuaid, presents her fourth solo album, which shows the songwriter flourishing within her realm.

Walking Into White floats in the breeze that blows along a sharp cliff edge. McQuaid’s fluid guitar recalls the mastery of Roy Harper, while her gently powerful voice soothes with the authority of wisdom. The opening “Low Winter Sun” slightly recalls The Who circa Quadrophenia with its airy sparseness, though the following “Where the Wind Decides to Blow” blatantly nods to rock’n‘roll with a bit of heavy drumming. “Yellowstone” evokes Spanish classicism, while the three-part a cappella “Sweetness And Pain” rolls a mysterious fog upon the moor. It ends in pure, majestic beauty with the religious hymn, “Canticle of the Sun,” written by St. Francis of Assisi in 1225, translated and set to music by William Henry Draper in 1919, and, finally, Ewan MacColl’s love song for Peggy Seeger, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”

Sarah McQuaid has spent far too long resting in the wings of relative obscurity. Fall into Walking Into White and land in her soft grip, where even darkness becomes a source of comfort.

Popdose

ALBUM REVIEW: SARAH MCQUAID, “WALKING INTO WHITE”
There is something I find immediately charming about Sarah McQuaid’s voice upon first listen to her newest release, Walking Into White – it’s soothing and embracing and doesn’t sound like what can consider atypical of folk-style performers. Although she’s U.K.-based, Ms. McQuaid hails from Chicago (! Aha!), but her style of acoustic playing reminds me of Nick Drake’s way along with the near-huskiness of her voice (yes, yes, I know Nick Drake gets name-checked a lot and so what? He was brilliant. Period.). Nonetheless, her style is very lush and expansive and makes this album something to sink my teeth into.

From the opening of the stark/bleak “Low Winter Sun” to the powerhouse of “Where The Wind Decides To Blow”, this is top of the mark song execution. Her masterful playing on “I Am Grateful For What I Have” (which has shades of Townshend’s acoustic picking style in there) is exquisite and chill inducing. There is a thread that pulls these songs together, via soundscapes that appear at the end of each track; from “Sweetness And Pain I” segueing into the album’s title track (which features just-right horn punches), this album reads like a novel. The foot-stop rhythm of “Jackdaws Rising” is another turn and the breeziness of “The Silver Lining” is a bright, acoustic pop direction.

Fourteen songs – fourteen chapters. All different, interesting, melodic, soulful, literate and enjoyable. Sarah McQuaid keeps a warm summer sound with this excellent album.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

babysue

Sarah McQuaid - Walking Into White (CD, Waterbug, Pop/folk/rock)
Well now here's one that doesn't sound like all the others. Walking Into White is the fourth full-length release from England's Sarah McQuaid. For this album, Sarah traveled to Cornwall, New York and worked with co-producers Jeremy Backofen and her cousin Adam Pierce. The three week session resulted in this, a unique collection of progressive folk/pop compositions with links to the past and the present. Very much unlike modern commercial artists whose music has no substance or soul, McQuaid's overall sound is moody and remarkably personal. Also very much unlike modern commercial artists, Sarah's voice is exceedingly real. She comes across sounding like a real human being singing real words … rather than someone whose voice has been perfected to pieces by digital processing. Very hard to come up with any comparisons here, as this young lady seems to be coming from her own distinct space. The more we spin this one, the better it sounds. Fourteen smart compositions and they're all rather … magical. Cool reflective cuts include "Low Winter Sun," "Sweetness and Pain," Yellowstone," and "Leave It For Another Day."

Jersey Beat

SARAH MCQUAID - Walking Into White
Representing contemplative folk-rock music at its most achingly delicate and harmonic, singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid's fourth album possesses a certain wrenching poignancy and sweet purity that's downright impossible not to be moved by. Better still, McQuaid's lovely voice projects an endearing mix of strength and vulnerability with bracing directness while her songwriting keeps things concise and thoughtful throughout. The natural unforced flow of the exquisitely fluid and melodic music contained herein further enhances this album's status as one to relish.

Spacelab

INTERVIEW: Sarah McQuaid
Walking Into White by UK songstress Sarah McQuaid is the kind of god or godess-send folk infused album of musical honesty that is almost otherworldly, yet to deny the humanity of the composer and singer would be to take away her immense talent as a musician. Fans of SubRosa's spellbinding take on "House Carpenter", the ethereal warmth of Melissa Nadler or Pamela Sue Mann's spacious and lush Kevin Killen mixed stuff or Gillian Welch will love this rich album of ballads and hearth songs poured through a quirky and natural sensibility.

Spacelab: Thank you for taking the time to do this. How is life finding you today?

Sarah McQuaid: Aw, thank you so much for the kind comment about the album! You've just improved my day immensely. Right now I'm in Dublin, Ireland, on a Friday afternoon midway through a six-week UK and Ireland tour, and it's been hammering rain all day and I'm sitting here in a friend's house making use of her wifi and trying to catch up with my massive admin backlog. In an hour or so we'll be heading out to tonight's gig.

Spacelab: I was wondering if you could elaborate on the title "Walking Into White." Also, I LOVE the horn on the title track. An inspired surprising element and really busy yet tasteful performance atop the soft vocal and very spare but dreamy guitar line. I was impressed at how it all meshed.

Sarah McQuaid: Thank you! The trumpet is played by a very talented guy called Gareth Flowers, whom I'd never met before the day he came in to play on a few of the album tracks. That particular song is one of three that I wrote after reading aloud the "Swallows and Amazons" series of children's books to my kids. Situations in the books kept striking me as wonderful metaphors, and the idea for "Walking Into White" came out of an incident in the second book in the series when two kids get lost in the fog. They're walking through this thick white mist and they can't see anything in front of or behind them, and they don't even know if they're still headed in the right direction -- and I thought "That's how I feel a lot of the time!"

Spacelab: So what brought you across the pond and to my neck of the woods in upstate New York? I heard you worked with the Felice Bros engineer ... I know that band, great dudes. Were you also drawn to the folk tradition of the 60's in the Hudson Valley region? Cornwall is nice and obviously by the Hudson River. My best friend was married there.

Sarah McQuaid: The album was co-produced by my cousin, Adam Pierce, together with his longtime musical associate Jeremy Backofen. Jeremy engineered the album, and he's the one who's worked with the Felice Brothers -- he produced a couple of their albums and also played drums with them for a while. The location was purely a function of the fact that Adam's based there, and I'd been wanting to work with him for a long time. That said, right while we were in the middle of recording the album back in January of 2014, we heard that Pete Seeger had died, so Adam invited some friends around and we all gathered around a Pete Seeger songbook and sang songs in his honour -- Adam had met Pete a few times through living so nearby, and even though he's not involved in folk music at all himself, he had a lot of respect for Pete as a person, as a musician and as an environmentalist.

Spacelab: Your voice is very human sounding, not a lot of trickery. The warmth on "The Tide" or at times colder, emotional passages all have depth. No trickery needed to make these songs function. "Jackdaws Rising" the foot and hand stomps, guitar and vocals...it's gorgeous layering. Shows that the old row row row your boat round formula still works best sometimes! I feel like you could sing really good lullabyes to kids, haha.

Sarah McQuaid: Well, thank you! When my kids were little I used to sing to them, but these days when I'm singing at home they mostly ask me to keep it down so they can hear their computer games ...

Spacelab: How did you know you were satisfied with these songs as a collection?

Sarah McQuaid: The songs were all written within a very short space of time -- I'd been touring like crazy for the previous couple of years and hadn't had much time to sit down and finish songs, but I had a whole bunch of song ideas that I'd been jotting down, bits of lyrics and little audio memos on my phone, bits of vocal melodies and guitar twiddles. So then once I'd booked the studio time and flights from England (which is where I live) to the USA to do the recording, I got out all those notes and audio memos, went through those and wrote a load of songs in a very short space of time. Not all of them made it onto the album, but I do feel that the ones that did are probably the most coherent, cohesive group of songs that I've recorded as an album -- I feel that they all hang together really well and work almost as a song cycle, whereas my three previous solo albums were written and recorded over much longer time frames.

Spacelab: I feel like "Sweetness and Pain I" will be a fan favorite. It sounds like an old traditional ballad. Check out my friend's SubRosa's haunting "House Carpenter" if you haven't. Is it a challenge to carry so much feeling through your voice yet still have a controlled, unwavering vocal?

Sarah McQuaid: Again, thank you for the kind words -- and I will make sure to check that out. When I'm singing, I try to keep my focus on the song itself, rather than on how I'm singing it -- I'm thinking about the words and the melody, not about what I'm doing with my voice. That's true of my concert performances as well as of my studio work -- my aim is always that my voice should be a vehicle for the song, rather than the other way around.

Spacelab: Are you often compelled to travel or are you more of a stay at home and be a recluse type?

Sarah McQuaid: Well, I spend five or six months of every year on the road -- eight weeks in the USA, four Continental Europe, eight in the UK and two in Ireland, plus various festivals over the summer -- and I do love touring (which I guess is just as well, given that I do so much of it!). But then when I do get home, I'm really happy to be home, and I do love where I live -- I'm way down in the southwest tip of England, in the middle of nowhere -- my nearest neighbour is a mile down the road -- and that suits me down to the ground.

Spacelab: It was just Earth Day and your "Canticle Of The Sun" is so lovely and inspirational. Is it daunting to sing "Hallelujiah" without being self concious, or is that erased when you think of the beauty of the world?

Sarah McQuaid: Again, I'm focused on the content of the song itself -- the words were written by St Francis of Assisi back in the 13th century, and even though it's a hymn, I love it that it talks about the beauty of the world we live in, rather than going on and on about how terrific the next one's going to be! I'm not in any hurry to get to the next world -- I'd like to stick around in this one as long as I possibly can.

Kingston Times

Sarah_McQuaid_Kingston_Times_2015

"Bittersweet-but-beautiful songs that will seep into your heart like wine spilled on a tablecloth."
Click here to read full article.

FolkWords

Interview with Sarah McQuaid
We're talking to one of our 'Album of the Month' winners, Sarah McQuaid about her latest album ‘Walking into White’ - we discuss some of the influences and inspirations that brought the album's songs to life and explore some of Sarah's views on music.
Read the full interview here.

Irish Music Magazine

SARAH McQUAID
Walking Into White
Waterbug Records WBG119
14 Tracks, 34 Minutes
www.sarahmcquaid.com

It's album number four for the UK based singer songwriter Sarah McQuaid, who has just released Walking Into White. For this album, Sarah ventured from Cornwall, England to Cornwall, New York to work with producers Adam Pierce and Jeremy Backofen; an unexplored territory that veers away from the mainly raw, solo element yet allows for experimentation with the recording process and backing arrangements. Some of it works, some of it falls slightly away yet hardly deters from the vocal delivery that we have come to expect.

McQuaid has an intensity of vocal, dark, textured and honeyed, that can be likened to the impact of a triple espresso. It leaves you with the feeling you have just reached the other side of an emotional furnace where every thought, feeling and sense of being has smouldered through her songs.

Take the three songs inspired by Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. Where the Wind Decides To Blow tells the story through a child’s eyes of the frenetic fear when you are out of control; in this case on a sled on a frozen lake. McQuaid uses the pacing frenzy and vocal rush to epitomise the blind fear experienced at that moment and then contrasts this as she steps back a pace when performing The Tide and reflects on the languidness of waiting for the tide to rise.

The third Ransome inspired song is also the title song, Walking Into White. The vocal humidity and brass accompaniment embody the helplessness of not being able to see ahead in the fog which, as Sarah says, ‘is like a parable for life’.

The whole album expresses the eclectic influences from McQuaid’s life intertwined with a symbiotic, emotive edge. With a maelstrom of intensity within, it’s a totally enthralling listen.

General-Anzeiger

Sarah McQuaid beim Folk im Feuerschlösschen
Eine Stimme wie irischer Malt
(English translation appears below German original.)

BAD HONNEF.  Sesshaftigkeit war noch nie Sarah McQuaids Ding. Geboren in Madrid, aufgewachsen in Chicago, lebte die Vollblutmusikerin zunächst in Frankreich, dann lange Jahre in Irland. Zur Zeit ist sie im englischen Cornwall zu Hause. Stilistisch festlegen lässt sie sich ebenso wenig.

Folk, natürlich, aber auch keltische Einflüsse, Mittelalterliches, Americana und Swing - wenn es um ihre Leidenschaft, die Musik, geht, kennt Sarah McQuaid keine Genre-Grenzen. Bei der jüngsten Ausgabe von "Folk im Feuerschlösschen" machte das multinationale Live-Talent seinem guten Ruf alle Ehre.

Es war Sarah McQuaids zweiter Abstecher in die Folk-Hochburg auf dem Sibi-Gelände; zuletzt war sie im Jahr 2013 in Bad Honnef aufgetreten. Seitdem ist ihr musikalisches Repertoire um ein ganzes Album gewachsen – und ihr Fundus an Anekdoten ebenfalls reichlich aufgestockt.

Die Programmgestaltung fiel außergewöhnlich aus: "Es gibt so viele Leute, die sich ein Album herunterladen, ohne es dann jemals als Ganzes anzuhören", meinte die Sängerin. Dabei sei das Gesamtkunstwerk mehr als die Summe seiner Teile. Als Beweis gab es in der ersten Konzerthälfte daher ihr komplettes neues Album zu hören; nach der Pause folgte dann gewissermaßen eine Auswahl ihrer "Greatest Hits".

Sarah McQuaids Musik ist gewiss anspruchsvoll - nicht zuletzt der zahlreichen stilistischen Einflüsse wegen. Doch wer sie zu schätzen weiß, dem eröffnet sich eine ganz eigene, detailverliebte Welt. Es sind weniger die ganz großen, eingängigen Melodien, mit denen sie aufwartet, sondern behutsame Klangverflechtungen, vorgetragen mit kunstvollem Gitarrenspiel und wundervoll harmonischen Pickingmustern.

McQuaid versucht nicht, mit atemberaubender Spielgeschwindigkeit zu punkten. Das hat sie auch gar nicht nötig. Sie mag es ohnehin ruhiger und besinnlicher, liebt das Spiel mit feingliedrig verwobenen Harmoniebildern. Dazu ihr betörender Gesang – warm, hinreißend, mit einem unwiderstehlichen Anflug von Sehnsucht. "Wie dreifach destillierter irischer Malt-Whiskey", so wurde ihre Stimme einmal beschrieben - mild-süß und herb zugleich eben. Eine passende Beschreibung für eine enorm talentierte Künstlerin.

Besonders beim gedankenverloren melancholischen "Leave It For Another Day" bewies Sarah McQuaid ihr Talent als Songwriterin. Es sollte nicht das einzige Mal an diesem Abend bleiben, dass sie Gänsehaut bereitete. Herausstach ferner die Live-Sound-Technik ihres Produzenten Martin Stansbury: Perfekt eingesetzte Wiederhall-Effekte verliehen dem ohnehin zauberhaften "Walking Into White" eine geradezu mystische Aura.

Die Atmosphäre einer nebelverhangenen Waldlichtung in der Dämmerung wurde förmlich greifbar. Cover von Ewan MacColls "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" und Jerry Jeff Walkers "Mister Bojangles" rundeten das Konzerterlebnis ab. Keine Frage: Liebhabern stilistischer Vielfalt dürfte Sarah McQuaids Musik runtergehen wie Honig. Traumhafter Gesang, ausgefeilte Spieltechnik und ein breites Repertoire - diese Frau bringt alles mit. Ihr zweiter Auftritt im Feuerschlösschen dürfte kaum ihr letzter gewesen sein.

Thanks to Alison Moffat for the translation below!
Sarah McQuaid at Folk im Feuerschlösschen
A Voice Like Irish Malt

BAD HONNEF.  Settling down has never been Sarah McQuaid‘s thing. A musician through and through, she was born in Madrid, grew up in Chicago, moved to France and spent many years in Ireland before deciding on Cornwall, where she currently lives.

Her musical style is equally hard to pin down, its folk bedrock overlaid with Celtic influences and touches of medieval music, Americana and swing. Where music, her passion, is concerned, Sarah McQuaid disregards the bounds of genre. The multi-national singer certainly cemented her good reputation at the most recent concert in the ‘Folk im Feuerschlösschen’ series.

It was Sarah McQuaid‘s second visit to the bastion of folk after her Bad Honnef debut in 2013. Since then, she’s added an album to her musical repertoire – and countless anecdotes to her collection. The evening followed an unusual plan: “So many people download an album without ever listening to it all the way through – but an album is a complete work of art, and more than the sum of its parts”, explained the singer. As proof, the first half of the concert was taken up by a complete performance of the new album, while the second half was dedicated to a selection of her ‘greatest hits’.

Sarah McQuaid’s music demands attention, not least because of its variety of stylistic influences. But those willing to pay attention enter a unique world of meticulous detail. Instead of ‘big’ anthemic melodies, she focuses on delicately woven, filigree sounds backed by skilful guitar and gorgeously harmonious picking patterns.

McQuaid makes no attempt to win the audience by playing at breathtaking speed – and she doesn’t need to. Her preference is for a calmer, more contemplative style with shimmering harmonies, combined with her captivating vocals – warm, mesmerising, with an irresistible touch of yearning. Her voice was once compared to “a triple-distilled Irish malt” – pleasantly sweet, yet with a sombre, austere tinge. A fitting description for an enormously talented artist.

Sarah McQuaid’s talent as a songwriter came especially to the fore in the dreamily melancholy “Leave It For Another Day” – the first, but definitely not the last gooseflesh moment of the evening. A further highlight was the live sound created by her producer, Martin Stansbury, whose crisply applied echo effects crowned the already enchanting “Walking Into White” with a positively mystical aura that brought the atmosphere of a misty forest clearing at twilight perfectly to life.

Covers of Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” and Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mister Bojangles” completed the programme. There’s no question that all concert-goers who appreciate diversity of style will lap up Sarah McQuaid’s music. With gorgeous vocals, sophisticated guitar technique and a broad repertoire, she’s got it all. Her second appearance at Feuerschlösschen certainly won’t be her last.

Honnef Heute

Sarah McQuaid – vielseitig im Feuerschlösschen
(English translation appears below German original.)

Bad Honnef: Sonntag trat sie zum zweiten Mal in Bad Honnef auf – Sarah McQuaid. Bereits 2012 begeisterte sie das Publikum im Feuerschlösschen. Und das war auch heute, obwohl es vier weitere Veranstaltungen an diesem Tag in Honnef gab, wieder bis zum letzten Platz besetzt.

Mit virtuosem Gitarrenspiel, unvergleichlicher Stimme und vielseitigen Kompositionen zog sie die Fans schnell in ihren Bann.

Mittlerweile hat die Künstlerin fünf Alben aufgenommen, vor der Pause präsentierte sie Stücke ihres ersten Albums. Darin verarbeitete sie für einen Song die Inhalte eines Kinderbuchs oder die schnelle Tide in Norfolk: “Warst Du unvorsichtig und sitzt Du mit Deinem Boot fest im Schlamm, weil Du nicht schnell genug warst, musst Du warten, bis Du wieder von der reinkommenden Flut an Land gespült wirst”.

Mit dem Iren Iren Gerry O’Beirne schrieb sie Lied, das via E-Mail kommuniziert wurde – er arbeitete daran in Irland, sie in Cornwall. Nach sechs Wochen war es fertig: “Leave It For Another Day”.

Auch sehr Intimes verarbeitete die in Madrid geborene Musiker in ihren Stücken. So trug sie ein Lied vor, das von den Einschlafproblemen ihres damals 10-jährigen Sohnes handelte.

Zum Ende hin griff Sarah McQuaid zu einem rosafarbenen Tamburin und animierte das Publikum, die Refrains mitzusingen – was ausgezeichnet klappte. Klar: Bad Honnef eben.

Thanks to Alison Moffat for the translation below!
Bad Honnef: Sunday was Sarah McQuaid’s second performance in Bad Honnef after her enthusiastically received concert at the Feuerschlösschen in 2012. And despite competition from four other events in Honnef tonight, the venue was packed to the doors.

Sarah McQuaid’s virtuoso guitar, distinctive voice and richly diverse compositions quickly captivated her fans.

The artist, who has five albums to her credit, presented tracks from her first album in the first half, including songs based on a children’s story and on Norfolk’s legendary fast tides: “If you aren’t careful and your boat gets stuck in the mud because you weren’t fast enough, you just have to wait there till the incoming tide washes you ashore.”

Sarah McQuaid joined forces with Irish musician Gerry O’Beirne to write a song by email – he was in Ireland, she was in Cornwall. After six weeks, the song “Leave It For Another Day” was finished.

The Madrid-born musician also gives some very personal insights in her songs, performing a composition about the difficulties experienced by her son (then aged 10) in getting to sleep.

At the end of the concert, Sarah McQuaid picked up a pink tambourine and encouraged the audience to sing a chorus – and they joined in with gusto. That’s Bad Honnef for you!

Cry Me A Torch Song

Interview: Sarah McQuaid – a born troubadour comes of age
Sarah McQuaid might live in Cornwall these days, but it’s hardly surprising that her inner troubadour regularly urges her to get out on the road. A quick skim through her formative years reveals the origins of a nomadic streak that will only be satisfied by taking her distinctive, guitar-driven stories directly to a rapidly growing audience – wherever it happens to be.

She was born in Madrid, the child of a Spanish father and an American mother, raised in Chicago (the touring bug struck early – McQuaid was a member of the city’s Children’s Choir, which travelled widely across the North American continent), and made regular visits to her grandmother’s home in Indiana. When Europe called, she spent a year studying philosophy at the University of Strasbourg and eventually arrived in Dublin in 1994, where she lived for 13 years, carving a career as a music journalist and dabbling in songwriting, before moving to England in 2007.

McQuaid says the reasons that she now calls Cornwall ‘home’ were initially purely utilitarian: when her mother died, she took over her house – which then became the natural place for Sarah and her husband Feargal Shiels to settle down and raise their own family . But she also appreciates the county’s significance in her evolution as a musician.

Crucial Cornwall
“Cornwall is wonderful and I don’t know if I’d be doing what I am today if it hadn’t happened that way,” she says. “It was here that I met Zoё [Pollock, the singer/songwriter best known for her 1991 hit ‘Sunshine on a Rainy Day’]. Our kids were at the same school. We got to know each other and she came round and played a few songs for me – with nonsense lyrics. I wrote some words and it was great, just exhilarating, working with her.”

The two women formed a folk duo, Mama, and released an album in 2008. “I’d made records before that [she released her first album in 1997] and if a song came to me I’d write it,  but it was never something I specifically sat down to focus on. But the whole process of working with Zoё filled me with energy and I thought this was something I could actually do, write my own songs for a career. It was the first time I started to think about myself as a songwriter,” she says.

Walking into White
It was also, clearly, the foundation for McQuaid’s status as a rising star in the UK’s eclectic galaxy of notable singer/songwriters. She has just released her fourth solo album, Walking into White, self-penned apart from a fresh, unadorned cover of ‘”The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. It showcases a quiet confidence in her skill as a lyricist, a commitment to her craft that is maturing at an opportune time, and a diversity of influences.ranging from lullabies and Latin beats to traditional folk and ballads of quality.

McQuaid’s voice has an unforced richness which is the perfect foil for the echoing, spacious arrangements of her songs – and for her guitar, which here assumes a dazzling array of guises; one minute it’s as plangent as a piano, the next, it’s buzzing on a rock-and-roll riff. A unique, multi-textured sound emerges as each song pours out a new narrative. A melancholy trumpet gives an imaginative edge to many of the songs.

When we speak, she has just returned from an extensive visit to the States and is already planning her next set of UK gigs. This will lead into a European leg and eventually to a full-scale spring tour of Britain, and you can sense her eagerness to get out there and recreate the acoustic idiosyncrasies of the album in an endless variety of live settings.

That considerable task weighs on the shoulders of her manager and touring sound engineer Martin Stansbury who helped with creative direction on the album, co-produced by McQuaid’s cousin Adam Pierce and Jeremy Backofen. Her professional hook-up with Stansbury was another key influence on her progress as a fully-fledged singer/songwriter.

“If I hadn’t started working with Martin, I would find it very hard to tour,” she says. “He handles everything. The album has quite a cinematic feel. Recreating that quality, with its musical interludes and shifting sounds is tricky and requires some technical wizardry.  Some of these songs became completely transformed during the recording, and now I have to try and recreate Adam’s feedback loops live…”

The US tour was an exhausting success, which taught McQuaid a few logistical lessons.

Touring tips
“I’ve been touring since 2010 so this is my fourth year and I feel like I’m finally getting it,” she says. “My tip for every travelling musician is to buy nuts and put them in zip-sealed bags! I love it. The way you settle into the rhythm and life actually becomes very easy. You get up, drive, stop for an interview, check in to your hotel, do your sound-check. It’s almost military in its precision.

“However, I planned the US tour very badly. On paper it looked so reasonable – gigs interspersed with rest days. Only I hadn’t factored in the 600-mile drives on those rest days! I mean, Colorado is breath-taking but Kansas doesn’t change at all, mile after mile. But the gigs were great and it gave me the chance to return to places that I know and love. You get novelty on a tour. Every place, audience and venue is different. Even so, by the tail-end of the US tour, I was getting weary and thinking it would be nice to get home.”

Home is also the source of a lot of McQuaid’s inspiration: three of the songs on the new album were inspired by Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books, which she discovered through bedtime reading sessions with her husband and their two children, and she would always catch up if a gig meant she missed a chapter.

“Because I grew up in the States I hadn’t been aware of them – my contribution has been Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books. I love children’s literature. E. Nesbitt is another favourite,” she says.

These tracks are among the most magical on the album, taking the listener into a world of metaphors and life experiences. The ‘white’ of the title isn’t necessarily innocence – it could be a blizzard full of danger; and there is plenty of shade in McQuaid’s evocative lyrics.

Singing today
“I now consider myself a singer/songwriter,” she says, after a pause to think. “There’s a hell of a lot of talent out there. And because of the technology, everyone can put their music out. Record companies don’t have all the control any more. But there’s tons of bad stuff as well, and it’s daunting that you have to plough through so much of it to get to the good stuff. The upside for an artist is that if you don’t want to perform and tour, you can just make albums and work to get them heard.”

McQuaid, however, intends to carry on doing both, and perhaps it’s a sign of her growing confidence that she included the Ewan MacColl classic on Walking into White.

“I like to do a cover on every album, and I just love this number. It’s one of the most perfect love songs ever written,” she says. “But I’m acutely aware that he wrote it for Peggy Seeger and hated all the other versions. I’ve tried to be true to it. I was aiming to sing it as though I was singing quietly to the person whose head was on the pillow next to me.”

And with that, prompted by her manager, she has to call time on our conversation. The road beckons, and there’s another destination to reach before McQuaid reels in another audience in thrall to her sonic way with a story.

Folkforum

Nieuw album Sarah McQuaid intrigeert
Sarah McQuaid - Walking Into White - Waterbug Records WBG119
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Een optreden van Sarah McQuaid is altijd de moeite waard, zo kon ik vandeweek zelf nog vaststellen in het Cultuurhuis in Heerlen, waar ze haar nieuwe CD Walking Into White voorstelde. Dat deed ze door de plaat integraal te spelen met behulp van geluidsman Martin Stansbury die voor de nodige technische snufjes zorgde. McQuaid heeft muzikaal gezien namelijk opnieuw een andere weg ingeslagen.

Na een album met vooral Ierse traditionals en eentje waar de Amerikaanse folk prominent aanwezig is maakte ze een plaat met wat meer eigen werk en liedjes uit de periodes die in Engeland bekend staan als de Georgian era (1740-1830) en Elizabethan era (1558-1603). Alledrie werden geproduceerd door Gerry O’Beirne (dit keer enkel co-auteur van Leave It For Another Day), maar voor Walking Into White reisde Sarah van het Engelse Cornwall naar Cornwall in de Amerikaanse staat New York. Daar werkte ze met producers Jeremy Backofen en Adam Pierce (een neef van haar). De twee komen niet uit de folkwereld en dat levert een ander geluid op dan op de vorige platen. Sarah McQuaid schreef dit keer alles zelf, op twee nummers na: Canticle Of The Sun (een dertiende-eeuwse hymne waar in de 17de eeuw muziek onder is gezet) en The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, het prachtige lied dat Ewan MacColl ooit voor Peggy Seeger schreef. Het is een rustige afsluiter geworden van een plaat waarmee ze buiten haar vertrouwde folksfeer stapt.

Daar moet ik aan wennen, de mooie warme stem verdrinkt hier en daar een beetje in de begeleiding, maar na veel luisteren komen toch wat pareltjes bovendrijven. Zo is er een aardig tekstueel drieluik, Where The Wind Decides To Blow (met een stevig jaren ’70 folkrockgeluid), The Tide (een fijne ballade, met extra vocalen van Adele Schulz) en titelnummer Walking Into White (met een lekker ontspannen trompet van Gareth Flowers) zijn gebaseerd op de kinderboekenserie Swallows And Amazons van Arthur Ransome. Ze las de boeken voor aan haar kinderen en werd zelf geraakt door de verhalen, die soms een metafoor lijken te zijn voor het leven. Sweetness And Pain is een geheel a capella stuk dat in drie delen is verspreid over het album. Een ander liedje dat mij bijzonder aanspreekt is Yellowstone (met een Spaans gevoel door Dan Lippel op klassieke gitaar), het ontstond toen ze ontdekte dat haar zoon bang was dat de grote vulkaan onder Yellowstone ooit zou uitbarsten, met alle (apocalyptische) gevolgen vandien. De tekst ontwikkelt zich van de angsten van een tienjarig kind naar die van een volwassene:

Who am I to say don’t worry
How can we help dwelling
On the things we can’t control
Even if we’re more than ten years old

Een heerlijk percussief stuk is Jackdaws Rising, met stomps en handgeklap, ontstaan tijdens een sessie met vrienden. Pete Coleman en Clare Hines hadden een melodie (met de titel 13 Moons) en nodigden Sarah uit om er een tekst bij te maken. Dat deed ze en Adam Pierce had het idee om een vijfkwartsmaat percussie te zetten onder een vierkwarts deun. Het levert een fijn intrigerend en lekker folky nummer op, dat live weliswaar lastig is om uit te voeren, maar Sarah McQuaid doet het toch. In Heerlen komt ze er goed vanaf, “almost in time” is het commentaar van Martin Stansbury. Hij is uiteraard kritisch, het publiek geniet.

Walking Into White herbergt nog steeds de mooie donkere stem van Sarah McQuaid en haar heldere gitaarspel in DADGAD-stemming, toch is het een heel andere plaat geworden dan zijn voorgangers. De producers hebben voor een veel steviger, minder folky, maar wel intense aanpak gekozen. Het levert een intrigerend album op, met enkele pareltjes om van te blijven genieten.

Thanks to Danny Guinan for the translation below!
New Sarah McQuaid album intrigues

That attending a Sarah McQuaid concert is always a guarantee of a great night out was confirmed to me last week when I went to see her presenting her new CD Walking Into White in the Cultuurhuis in Heerlen. She performed the whole album on the night, with no small help from her sound engineer, Martin Stansbury, who provided the technical knowhow that McQuaid’s decision to pursue a new musical avenue demands. 

After two albums dominated by Irish and American folk, her third CD contained more self-penned work and songs from the Georgian (1740-1830) and Elizabethan (1558-1603) eras in England. All three albums were produced by Gerry O’Beirne (who contributes as co-author on Leave It For Another Day on the new CD), but for the recording of Walking Into White, Sarah made the journey from Cornwall, England to Cornwall in the state of New York, USA, where she teamed up with the producers Jeremy Backofen and Adam Pierce (Sarah’s cousin). Not having any background in folk music themselves, the contribution of the twin producers resulted in a sound that is markedly different from her previous albums. Sarah McQuaid wrote all of the songs on the album herself, except for two: Canticle Of The Sun (a thirteenth century hymn that was set to music in the 17th century) and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, the fabulous song that Ewan MacColl wrote for Peggy Seeger and the last track on an album that sees her move out of her ‘folky’ comfort zone.

It took some getting used to at first -- her beautifully warm voice is a little overpowered every now and then by the musical accompaniment -- but only a few listens later I had discovered a couple of real gems. For example, the trilogy of songs Where The Wind Decides To Blow (with its robust ’70s folk-rock sound), The Tide (a graceful ballad featuring extra vocals by Adele Schulz) and the title track Walking Into White (with the relaxed trumpet playing of Gareth Flowers) are all based on the Swallows And Amazons children’s books written by Arthur Ransome. It was while reading the stories to her own children that Sarah became increasingly attracted to them and their metaphorical significance. Sweetness And Pain is an a capella number that is actually spread over three different tracks on the album. Another song that captured my attention is Yellowstone (Dan Lippel on classical guitar lends it a Spanish feel), which she wrote after discovering that her son was afraid that the enormous volcano under Yellowstone Park was going to erupt, with all the (apocalyptic) consequences of such an event. The lyrics are a smooth translation of the fears of a ten-year-old boy into those of an adult:

Who am I to say don’t worry
How can we help dwelling
On the things we can’t control
Even if we’re more than ten years old 

Jackdaws Rising is a superbly rhythmic number, complete with foot stomps and handclaps courtesy of a session with a bunch of friends. Pete Coleman and Clare Hines had written a melody (titled 13 Moons) and asked Sarah to write some lyrics to go with it. Adam Pierce then came up with the idea of recording this 4/4 tune with the percussion in 5/4. The result is an intriguing and catchy folky number that is not easy to perform live. Not that this prevents Sarah McQuaid from doing so. In Heerlen she manages to pull it off, “almost in time” according to Martin Stansbury. His critical faculties remain sharp; the audience laps it up.

While Walking Into White still emphasises Sarah McQuaid’s dark and beautiful voice and on her excellent guitar playing in the DADGAD tuning, it is quite different from its predecessors. The producers opted for a heavier, less folky, but by no means less intense approach. The result is an intriguing album that features a few gems that simply demand repeated playing.

Folk Radio UK

Sarah McQuaid – Walking into White
Walking Into White is the fourth solo album by the Penzance-based singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid. An accomplished musician who has never been afraid to take chances, Sarah has developed a highly distinctive playing style based on the use of the DADGAD open tuning and this has allowed her to soak up diverse influences from Irish traditional music to Appalachian folk, Elizabethan ballads to jazz, pop and many other styles. For this record, she enlisted the services of two producers (Jeremy Backofen and Adam Pierce) from outside the folk scene and with whom she’d never worked with before. It’s a leap in the dark that could quite conceivably have gone horribly wrong but, for the most part, Sarah’s instincts have proved remarkably good. The result is a highly enjoyable record by a musician who, despite endless tours and recording sessions, still remains one of the UK’s best-known unknowns. However, I do have reservations about the production decision to use what the PR notes call “occasionally unorthodox recording methods (a mini-cassette recorder mounted on a microphone stand, for example)”, which does, from time to time throughout the album, result in noticeable amounts of tape hiss. Whether this adds or detracts from one’s listening experience is, of course, a highly subjective matter which will undoubtedly vary according to individual tastes.

The opening Low Winter Sun showcases both Sarah’s musical eclecticism and the influence of her co-producers; Adam Pierce’s synth washes underpin guitar melodies which are drawn from church bell peals (specifically the Westminster Quarters and Plain Bob Doubles). Campanological influences aside, the song has its own rhythmic core which sits well with the lyrical subject matter of driving through the countryside with the wintry sun in your eyes.

Where The Wind Decides To Blow is the first of three songs on the album which were inspired by Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series of children’s books. The idea to write these songs came from Sarah’s having read aloud all twelve books to her two children as bedtime stories and the lyrical content of Where The Wind Decides To Blow is derived from an incident in the fourth book, Winter Holiday, where what starts out as a fun idea suddenly goes a bit sideways. Tempered by Kivie Cahn-Lipman’s dreamy cello, there’s a sense of foreboding in Sarah’s playing which explodes into a full-on 1960s-ish rock arrangement in the middle eight with the arrival of Adam’s overdubbed one-man rhythm section (drums, bass and electric guitar).

It’s followed by The Tide, the second of the Swallows and Amazons influenced trilogy and which finds its inspiration in both Cool Club and Secret Water. As Sarah points out in her sleeve notes, the stories are something of a metaphor for life: if you get stuck in the mud when the tide goes out, all you can do is wait for it to rise again. Musically a little less raucous than Where The Wind Decides To Blow, Sarah’s exemplary playing is foregrounded over Rob King’s restrained piano and Adam’s skittery percussion, while Adele Schulz adds some ethereal harmony vocals to the refrains.

The instrumental I Am Grateful For What I Have is a gentle, kaleidoscopic showcase for Sarah’s virtuoso playing; Dan Lippel’s classical guitar adds some nice tonal variation, while Kivie’s understated cello drone grounds the piece and adds depth. It sets the scene for the curiously lo-fi a capella Sweetness And Pain I, the first of an almost accidental trilogy in that, after recording the whole piece, Sarah decided that it might work better split into three parts “to be scattered amongst the other tracks as a sort of interlude and recurring theme”.

The album’s title track Walking Into White resumes and concludes Sarah’s Swallows and Amazons trilogy, this time based on the book Swallowdale. Again offering a lyrical metaphor for one of life’s more trying experiences – the sense of being lost in a thick fog with no idea of which way to go – it benefits from a clean and simple arrangement of just Sarah (guitar and vocals) around which the trumpet of Gareth Flowers weaves and billows although, like the preceding Sweetness And Pain I, the recording has a definite lo-fi feel about it which manifests itself in a particularly high level of tape hiss, at least to my ears.

Jackdaws Rising is a joint composition which derives from an instrumental tune called 13 Moons, written by Sarah’s friends Pete Coleman and Clare Hines of the band Brocc. Sarah felt that it would work well as a three-part round (the second and third parts are here sung by Adele Schulz and Martin Stansbury), while co-producer Adam adds a 5/4 percussion part to this rousing 4/4 tune. Additional percussion in the form of stomps and handclaps is provided by the ensemble (including the other co-producer, Jeremy Backofen). A definite highlight and one which may well cause you to, um, shake a tailfeather!

Dedicated to Sarah’s son Eli, Yellowstone has an almost flamenco feel, thanks in part to Dan’s classical guitar flourishes. Adam adds some restrained cajon beats and the result is a soothing lullaby which will undoubtedly help to calm any ten-year old who has been kept awake by the vagaries of the big bad world outside. By contrast, The Silver Lining is a much livelier affair, partly as a result of its very poppy song structure and partly because of Adam’s driving, rocky drums. Jeremy’s bass helps to keep things on an even keel while the vocal harmonies and Gareth’s muted trumpet add to what is a real radio-friendly highlight of the album.

Bookended by the second and third parts of the lo-fi Sweetness And Pain a capella trilogy, Leave It For Another Day, co-written with Gerry O’Beirne (who produced her first three albums) foregrounds Sarah’s intricate playing, which is well suited to a song which has the 1960s folk revival at its heart, despite her fragile, delicate vocals being buried in the mix. Adam’s treated electric guitar adds some interesting, if upfront, textures to the sound which, once again features the aforementioned “unorthodox recording methods”.

Canticle Of The Sun, possibly better known to many as the hymn All Creatures Of Our God And King, is an unusual choice of material but the organ drones (by Martin and Adam) are arranged in a way that allows Sarah’s gorgeous multitracked harmonies to shine through. Her playing, too, is a joy to hear and the feel of church bell ringing pervades the tune to good effect. The album closes with Sarah’s solo (voice and guitar), lo-fi cover of the Ewan MacColl song The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. As she says in her sleeve notes, “it’s one of the most perfect love songs ever written” and her performance is a correspondingly tender way to round out the record.

As frustrating as it must surely be that a greater public recognition has so far eluded her, Sarah McQuaid has clearly held true to her own musical vision and it’s to be hoped that Walking Into White is the album which will bring her the wider commercial success she so richly deserves.

The Next Gig

Sarah McQuaid overtreft live haar studioalbum
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

STEENDAM – Bij de wereldwijde CD presentatie op het podium van Peter en Leni in Steendam van ‘Walking into White’ van Sarah McQuaid bleek dat de artieste op het podium haar albumprestatie nog wist te overtreffen. Live kregen haar nummers nog meer intensiteit, zeggingskracht en kwam het kortom nog meer tot leven. De kracht van McQuaid is dat ze op het podium erg dicht bij zichzelf blijft. McQuaid is een oprechte artieste met een prima hand voor haar gitaar en in staat om het publiek aan zich te committeren. Sinds haar laatste Nederlandse tour is McQuaid ook nog eens gegroeid als artieste.

Tijdens haar publiekspresentatie van ‘Walking into White’speelde ze integraal haar album met als bonus een mooie introductie van haar liedjes, zodat ook het verhaal achter haar werk werd verteld. Al direct bleek bij ‘Where the Wind decides to Blow’ en ‘The Tide’ dat McQuaid in topvorm stak. Mooi bij stem, warm en prachtig werden de nummers gebracht. Bij een optreden van McQuaid gebeurt er veel op het podium, maar ook veel achter de mengtafel, waar Martin Stansbury zijn magie bedrijft met onder andere de loop. Dat was onontbeerlijk bij nummers als ‘Jackdaws Rising’ wat live erg moeilijk uit te voeren is, maar wat toch tot een goed einde werd gebracht. Op andere momenten zocht de geluidsman iets teveel de grens op, vooral in ‘Leave it for another Day’.

Na de pauze nam McQuaid haar publiek mee op een dwarsdoorsnede door haar eerdere werk. Dat leverde een magnifieke uitvoering op van ‘Lift you Up and let you Fly’. Een nummer dat geïnspireerd is door haar dochter en oprecht gezongen werd vanuit een moeders hart. McQuaid sprong op een prettige manier door de breedheid van haar repertoire. Van Americana naar Britse folk en via Ierse traditionals weer terug. Af en toe een cover, zoals ‘Ode aan Billie Joe’ van Bobbie Gentry en als toegift ‘Mr Bojangles’ bij Jerry Jeff Walker waarmee ze eer inlegde voor de schrijvers van beide nummers, maar er ook in slaagde het in te passen in het McQuaid repertoire. McQuaid overtuigde als mens en artieste.

Thanks to Peter van Zeijl for assistance with the translation below!
Sarah McQuaid live surpasses her studio album

STEENDAM - The worldwide CD launch at Podium Café Peter en Leni in Steendam of Sarah McQuaid’s “Walking Into White” demonstrated that onstage, the artist surpasses even her performance on the album. Live, the tracks gained intensity, expressiveness and in short came even more to life. McQuaid’s strength is that onstage she remains very true to herself. McQuaid is a sincere artist with a fine hand for her guitar, and has the ability to engage her audience. Since her last Dutch tour, McQuaid has also grown as an artist.

During her public presentation of “Walking Into White”, she played her album in its entirety, with lovely introductions of her songs as a bonus, so that the stories behind her work were also told. With “Where the Wind Decides To Blow” and “The Tide”, it was immediately evident that McQuaid was in top form. A beautiful voice, warm and wonderful songs were brought. At a McQuaid show, a lot happens onstage, but a lot also happens behind the mixing desk, where Martin Stansbury works his magic, including a loop effect. This latter was essential for songs like “Jackdaws Rising”, which is difficult to implement live, but nevertheless was brought to a successful conclusion. At other times, the sound engineer pushed the boundaries a little too far, especially on “Leave It For Another Day”.

After the break, McQuaid took her audience through a cross-section of her previous work. That generated a magnificent performance of “Lift You Up and Let You Fly,” a song inspired by her daughter and sincerely sung from a mother’s heart. McQuaid hopped in a pleasant way over the breadth of her repertoire, from Americana to British folk, via Irish traditional music and back again. Occasionally a cover, such as Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” and as an encore “Mr Bojangles” by Jerry Jeff Walker, with which she paid homage to the writers of both songs, but also managed to fit them into the McQuaid repertoire. McQuaid convinced both as a person and as an artist.

R2/Rock & Reel

R2_Review_Sarah_McQuaid_2015

SARAH McQUAID
****
Walking Into White
(WATERBUG) www.waterbug.com
Sarah McQuaid's new album is a meditation on landscape and nature and on our relationship with them. The songs are acutely observed and literate, almost like journal notes set to music. They're measured and tranquil but they're never dull because there is always a sense of restlessness and unease behind the poetry.

We are in dangerous country. We should not be deceived by its beauty. A blinding blizzard springs up as cloud rolls in like an anvil. Fog engulfs children on a high fell. Thorns scratch the hand that seeks their fruit. Album opener 'Low Winter Sun' sets the scene. A lyric of tremulous brevity reminds of us of those moments when, driving in winter, we are temporarily blinded by sunlight. The guitar plays church bells over distant rumbles of noise and McQuaid's voice is calm and beguilingly frank. It's a bit like receiving an unexpected confidence from a stranger.

Highlights include three songs based on the work of Arthur Ransome, and the a cappella 'Sweetness And Pain' which appears as three segments. The album closes with a heartfelt version of st. Francis of Assisi's solo hit 'Canticle Of The Sun' and a particularly sweet cover of Ewan MacColl's 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face'. And it's all lovely.

The Musician

Musician_Sarah_McQuaid_Spring_2015

SARAH McQUAID
Walking Into White

Taking her inspiration from sources including classic children’s tale Swallows & Amazons, Sarah builds upon her back catalogue to spin a web of acoustic magic.

Sarah’s fourth album of acoustic and folk-tinged intensity has been produced by Stateside producers Jeremy Backofen and her cousin Adam Pierce. Their drive to enthuse the recording with an enhanced intimacy and emotional impact certainly pays off.

Using a number of unorthodox recording methods, such as a mini-cassette recorder mounted on a microphone stand, the team has created a complete piece and a series of outstanding tracks including Yellowstone, about a boy’s obsession with volcanic apocalypse, which benefits from wonderful Spanish guitar solo interludes. Low Winter Sun, meanwhile -- with its pealing bell effects and chiming strings -- hints of winter chill, yet there is a warmth and positivity emanating from Sarah’s vocals and the ensemble playing. A work that grows with each listen.

Folker

Sarah_McQuaid_Folker_Review_2015

SARAH McQUAID
Walking Into White
(Waterbug Records WBG119,
www.sarahmcquaid.com)
14 Tracks, 34:45, mit engl. Texten u. Infos
(English translation appears below German original.)

Auf ihrem vierten Album hat die englische Amerikanerin Sarah McQuaid von gewohnten Klängen Abschied genommen. Ihr bisheriger folkorientierter Produzent, der Ire Gerry O’Beirne, taucht nur noch als Mitverfasser eines Songs auf. Dessen Aufgabe übernahmen die Amerikaner Adam Pierce und Jeremy Backofen, die mit Folk bislang wenig zu tun hatten. Deren Hörerwartungen unterscheiden sich deutlich von O’Beirne, und entsprechend anders klingt McQuaid: Der Sound geht eher in Richtung Indie und bewegt sich zwischen A-cappella-Gesang mit Hintergrundrauschen, angejazzten und bluesigen Tönen und Drums, Bass und Fender, aber selbstverständlich ist die akustische Gitarre weiterhin dabei. Auch sorgten Pierce und Backofen neben ungewöhnlichen Klangideen für deutlich gestraffte Texte, sodass die Lieder meist unter drei Minuten bleiben. Neben den Eigenkompositionen interpretiert McQuaid die Hymne „Lasst uns erfreuen“ (auf Englisch) und MacColls legendäres „The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face“. Ein mutiges Album mit einem potenziellen Pophit („The Silver Lining“), und im März können McQuaids Fans die Liveumsetzung im Rahmen einiger Deutschlandkonzerte überprüfen.

Thanks to Alison Moffat for the translation below!
The fourth album by English American singer Sarah McQuaid introduces a departure from her former signature style. Gerry O’Beirne, the folk-leaning Irish producer of her previous albums, is now only credited as co-writer of one song; his position has been taken by US producers Adam Pierce and Jeremy Backofen, whose careers so far have had little to do with folk. As listeners, their expectations diverge widely from O’Beirne’s – and this divergence is reflected in McQuaid’s new sound. Her style is now closer to indie, spanning a cappella numbers with soughing background effects, jazzy, bluesy songs, and drums, bass and Fender, with Sarah’s characteristic acoustic guitar as a constant. As well as shaking up the sound, Pierce and Backofen have also tightened up the lyrics, keeping most of the tracks under three minutes. McQuaid’s own compositions are joined by an interpretation of the hymn “All Creatures of our God and King” and MacColl’s legendary “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. A courageous album that includes a potential pop hit (“The Silver Lining”). McQuaid’s fans can check out how the album translates to live performance in March, when the singer will be on tour in Germany.

Heaven

Sarah_McQuaid_Heaven_Review_2015

Sarah McQuaid
WALKING INTO WHITE
Waterbug Records
De Cornwall-connectie
(8.5/10)
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Drie jaar geleden verscheen het derde album The Plum tree And The Rose van de in het Engelse Cornwall wonende zangeres/ liedjesschrijfster Sarah McQuaid. Het betekende haar debuut als liedjesschrijfster. Dankzij haar samenwerking met plaatsgenoot Zoë, met wie ze in 2009 onder de naam Mama het album Crow Coyote Buffalo uitbracht, begon McQuaid in die periode zelf liedjes te schrijven. Haar albums als vertolkster van traditionele Ierse folk (When Two Lovers Meet uit 1997) en de traditionele muziek uit het gebied van de Appalachen I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning uit 2008) getuigden al eerder van haar talenten als zangeres en gitariste. De lovende kritieken van vrijwel de hele internationale folkscene voor The Plum Tree And The Rose stellen McQuaid voor de lastige taak met een opvolger te komen die aan de hoge verwachtingen voldoet. Productioneel betekent het een breuk met Gerry O’Beirne met wie ze haar eerste drie albums opnam. Wel heeft hij meegeschreven aan Leave It For Another Day. In de Tree Time Studios in Cornwall, USA hebben de producers Jeremy Backofen (Frightened Rabbit, The Felice Brothers) en Sarah McQuaid’s neef Adam Pierce (Mice Parade, Ólöf Arnalds) gekozen voor een invulling die stilistisch minder nadrukkelijk op de folkmuziek is gericht. De welhaast verstilde, transparante opzet van zijn voorganger zul je op Walking Into White maar zelden aantreffen. Het totale klankbeeld is veel steviger en kent een meer poppy karakter. Aanvankelijk moest ik daar aan wennen. Enkele draaibeurten verder beginnen de liedjes te beklijven en kan ik niet anders dan mijn hoed afnemen voor deze moedige zangeres die opnieuw een grote stap gezet heeft in haar ontwikkeling als muzikante.

Thanks to Danny Guinan for the translation below!
The Cornwall-based singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid released her third album The Plum Tree And The Rose three years ago. It marked her debut as a fully-fledged songwriter and was the culmination of a period during which McQuaid began to write her own songs, inspired by her collaboration with fellow artist Zoë with whom she recorded the album Crow Coyote Buffalo in 2009 under the band name Mama. Her previous albums, the traditional Irish folk CD When Two Lovers Meet (1997) and the Appalachian-inspired I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning (2008), had already showcased her talent as a singer and guitarist. The high praise showered by the international folk scene on The Plum Tree And The Rose in particular presented McQuaid with the daunting task of living up to high expectations with her new recording. The first step she took was to find another producer to replace Gerry O’Beirne, with whom she had recorded her first three albums, although he does feature on the new album as co-writer of Leave It For Another Day. In Tree Time Studios in Cornwall, USA, her newly installed producers, Jeremy Backofen (Frightened Rabbit, The Felice Brothers) and Sarah McQuaid’s cousin Adam Pierce (Mice Parade, Ólöf Arnalds), chose to employ a less folk-oriented style. The tranquil and transparent feel of the previous albums is almost nowhere to be found on Walking Into White. The sound has become heavier and is even poppy in places. It took some getting used to at first. However, after a few spins I couldn’t get the songs out of my head and I simply had to tip my hat to a singer who has obviously taken a major step forward in her musical career.

Le Cri du Coyote

Sarah_McQuaid_Le_Cri_du_Coyote_Review

SARAH McQUAID: Walking Into White
(English translation appears below French original.)

Le parcours de Sarah McQuaid est atypique. Née en Espagne d'un père espagnol et d'une mère américaine, elle vit désormais dans la campagne anglaise (Cornouailles) après avoir passé treize ans en Irlande (mais aussi, quand elle avait 18 ans, étudié un an la philosophie à Strasbourg). Guitariste de talent, elle a écrit The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book et publié trois albums depuis 1997, logiquement très marqués, surtout les deux premiers, par des influences celtiques. Changement de décor pour Walking Into White puisque Sarah s'est embarquée pour Cornwall (traduction anglaise de Cornouailles) dans l'état de New York afin de travailler avec deux co-producteurs locaux, Jeremy Backofen et Adam Pierce (son cousin). Les deux hommes ne sont pas issus du monde du folk et travaillent pour la première fois avec Sarah, ce qui donne à l'album une couleur bien différente des précédents. La guitare de Sarah sonne d'une manière inhabituelle, sans doute en raison des techniques d'enregistrement moins orthodoxes qu'à l'accoutumée, la voix a une fraîcheur et une spontanéité qui ne se démentent jamais. On ne pense plus à l'Irlande en écoutant le disque, même lors de la reprise du standard d'Ewan MacColl, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Une véritable atmosphére, d'une esthétique toute moderne, a été créée et subsiste malgré les changements de registre. La trompette jazz (Gareth Flowers) de Walking Into White, la guitare classique (Dan Lippel) de Yellowstone se fondent parfaitement dans l'ensemble, comme le cantique traditionnel Canticle Of The Sun. Sarah a su se moderniser sans se renier, osé être différente tout en restant elle-même, se renouveler avec talent. (SP)
Waterbug Records / http://www.sarahmcquaid.com

Sarah McQuaid’s journey is an atypical one. Born in Spain to a Spanish father and an American mother, she now lives in the English countryside (Cornwall), after having spent thirteen years in Ireland (but having also, when she was 18 years old, studied philosophy for one year in Strasbourg). A talented guitarist, she wrote The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book and has published three albums since 1997, unsurprisingly very marked – especially the first two – by Celtic influences. A change of décor for Walking Into White, as Sarah travelled to Cornwall in New York State in order to work with two local co-producers, Jeremy Backofen and Adam Pierce (her cousin). The two men don’t come from the world of folk, and were working for the first time with Sarah, which gives the album a very different colour from its predecessors. Sarah’s guitar has an unusual sound, no doubt owing to the unorthodox recording techniques, and the voice has a freshness and spontaneity that never fail. One no longer thinks of Ireland while listening to this album, even during the cover of Ewan MacColl’s standard, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. A veritable atmosphere, of a completely modern aesthetic, has been created and subsists despite the changes of register. The jazz trumpet (Gareth Flowers) of Walking Into White, the classical guitar (Dan Lippel) of Yellowstone merge perfectly within the ensemble, as does the traditional hymn Canticle Of The Sun. Sarah has succeeded in modernising herself without disowning herself, has dared to be different while at the same time remaining herself, renewing herself with talent. (SP)

Ctrl.Alt.Country

SARAH MCQUAID “Walking Into White” (Waterbug Records)
(3,5****)
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Voor de opnames van haar vierde cd “Walking Into White” ruilde Sarah McQuaid gewoon het ene Cornwall voor het andere in. Om er te kunnen samenwerken met co-producers Jeremy Backofen (Frightened Rabbit, Felice Brothers) en haar neef Adam Pierce (Mice Parade, Tom Brosseau, Múm) verliet ze tijdelijk haar geadopteerde Britse thuishaven van die naam voor het gelijknamige stadje in Orange County, New York. Daar in de States ging de Engelse op zoek naar een compleet andere benadering van haar liedgoed. En die vond ze dus onder de vleugels van het normaliter niet in het folkwereldje actieve duo Backofen-Pierce. Dat tweetal slaagde erin om de intensiteit van haar live performances te vatten. Om haar wat ruwere kantje van tijdens die gigs ook op plaat te vereeuwigen. En om als dusdanig haar folkmateriaal ook voor een normalerwijze eerder voor pop en rock vallend publiek aantrekkelijk te maken.

Geopend wordt er met het in al z’n ijzigheid voorzichtig rillingen over je dan nog argeloze luisteraarslijf jagende “Low Winter Sun”. Vervolgens gaat het richting het met één vitale jump de sixties voor het hier en nu achter zich latende folkrockexperimentjke “Where The Wind Decides To Blow”, net als het ijle, meteen daaropvolgende “The Tide” en het titelnummer gebaseerd op de kinderboeken van Arthur Ransome.

“I Am Grateful For What I Have” blijkt op zijn beurt dan weer een klassieke allures vertonende akoestische gitaarinstrumental, “Sweetness And Pain I” het eerste van een in drie delen opgesplitst a cappella interludium, “Jackdaws Rising” een sfeervolle, met Adele Schulz en Martin Stansbury “three-part round” en “Yellowstone” een voorwaar zelfs even met een bedaard sambaritme flirtend niemendalletje. Uptempo single “The Silver Lining” kenden we hier al een poosje als een moment van pure klasse van McQuaid en het ingetogen, samen met Gerry O’Beirne, de producer van haar vorige drie albums, gepende “Leave It For Another Day”, haar benadering van Drapers “Canticle Of The Sun” en de afsluitende cover van folkicoon Ewan McColls “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” zijn al evenzeer intrigerende lappen eigentijds folkvlees.

Kort samengevat: “Walking Into White” is niet enkel McQuaids meest persoonlijke en emotionele plaat tot op heden, het is gewoon ook haar beste. En het zou ons dan ook geenszins verwonderen, mocht de door haar erop ingeslagen weg op termijn ook deze richting succes op wat grotere schaal blijken te zijn.

Thanks to Danny Guinan for the translation below!
To record her fourth CD, “Walking Into White”, Sarah McQuaid decided to swap one Cornwall for another. She relocated from her adopted home in the UK to the town of Cornwall in Orange County, New York, so that she could team up with the co-producers Jeremy Backofen (Frightened Rabbit, Felice Brothers) and Adam Pierce (Mice Parade, Tom Brosseau, Múm), who happens to be her cousin. The trip to the States was made with the intention of approaching her music and songs from an entirely different perspective and the Backofen-Pierce duo, who normally don't operate in 'folky' circles, provided the perfect counterfoil. They were able to capture the intensity of her live performances and commit the raw energy of her performances to tape. In so doing, they have managed to make her folky material attractive to an audience that would be more at home with pop and rock music.

The icy calm of the opening track “Low Winter Sun” gently teases the unsuspecting first-time listener before bolting along to the Sixties-like sound of the folk-rock experimental number “Where The Wind Decides To Blow”, the fast-paced “The Tide” and the title track, which is based on the children's books written by Arthur Ransome.

“I Am Grateful For What I Have” bears all the hallmarks of a classic acoustic guitar instrumental, “Sweetness And Pain I” is the first installment of an a cappella trilogy that also includes the atmospheric “Jackdaws Rising”, a “three-part round” with Adele Schulz and Martin Stansbury, and the flirtatious “Yellowstone” with its easy samba rhythm. We had already fallen completely for the up-tempo single “The Silver Lining” - classic McQuaid - and the subdued “Leave It For Another Day”, co-written with Gerry O’Beirne, the producer of her previous three albums. Her interpretation of Draper's “Canticle Of The Sun” and the cover of folk icon Ewan McColl's “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” are also intriguing slices of pure folk magic.

To put it simply, not only is “Walking Into White” McQuaid's most personal and emotional album to date, it is also her best. And it would be no surprise to us if her newly chosen musical path eventually brings her even greater success.

Concert Monkey

ALBUM REVIEW: Sarah McQuaid - Walking Into White
The singer-songwriters always bring along the constant fascination for an endless ocean of emotions and stories shaped up with (apparently) so little resources – plain songs, their voice, a guitar or a piano. But their work is deeply rooted into the most precious thing that can be put out there: themselves. And behind each of them, there is a unique universe and personal history. Can there be anything more intriguing than that?

Music journalist, artist, folk singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid has a distinctive biography and background. Born in Spain, raised in US, taught how to sing by her mother, she toured from the age of 12 with the Chicago Children’s Choir, studied in France, settled in Ireland and later on moved to England. ‘Walking Into White’ is her fourth solo album.

The striking essentials of the album are the strength suggestive of cold and warm feelings without falling into the ‘sad versus happy’ cliché, the richness in sounds, themes and arrangements and its holistic approach towards different topics, leaving still enough space for contemplation and thought.

It talks a lot about childhood, hiding insightful metaphors on life behind beautiful lyrics and inspiration found in the bedtime reading done by Sarah to her kids. The title track together with two other songs – ‘Where The Wind Decides To Blow’ and ‘The Tide’ found inspiration in Arthur Ransome’s classic ‘Swallows and Amazons’ twelve children’s books. ‘Yellowstone’ is more direct, a true life-guiding advice against children fears which can ruin the beauty of life.

The same record brings together a vocal-only song and an instrumental-only one. As a great sign of Sarah McQuaid power of suggestion stands ‘Sweetness And Pain’, which was originally recorded as a full a cappella song, to be finally split into three parts across the record. At the opposite pole, ‘I Am Grateful For What I Have’ is a guitar ballad with a self explanatory title, which I find particularly significant for the entire philosophy of the record as it may represent the link between the introspection on less pleasant aspects of life (‘Low Winter Sun’ or ‘Jackdaws Rising’) and hope, joy and reassurance (‘The Silver Lining’ or ‘Leave It For Another Day’).

The album ends with two covers, ‘Canticle Of The Sun’ wrote in the 13th century by St. Francis of Assisi and best known as the hymn ‘All Creatures of Our God and King’. ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ is a beautiful version for a love song written for Peggy Seeger.

‘Walking Into White’ is a deep, resonant record with many variations which somehow keep the same high level of intensity. An ambitious project which obviously couldn’t be done without a significant previous experience. Melting together contemporary, medieval and Spanish rhythms or vocal, guitar, cello, synthesizer and trumpets harmonies, and still keeping the sense of a strange unity, which comes natural as if it was the most normal state of play… Such magnitude can only be found the frame of life itself.

FolkWords

‘Walking into White’ from Sarah McQuaid - completeness and unity pervades
The echoing magic of ‘Walking into White’, the latest album from Sarah McQuaid, seizes you from the first and holds you captured long after the last notes fade. The owner of a distinctive captivating voice, exponent of striking melodic dexterity, Sarah has created an album suffused with slices of exploration and discovery that writes one more mesmeric chapter in the ever-expanding chronicle of her music.

Sending out a trembling resonance, this is a collection of songs that feel their way into your being, combining to impart breadth and spread coupled with an allure that beguiles you to share the confidences they reveal. From the supremely melodic instrumental ‘I Am Grateful For What I Have’ through the lingering three-part round of ‘Jackdaws Rising’ to the combination of child-inspired innocence and adult-insecuritites running through ‘Yellowstone’, a sense of completeness and unity pervades the entire album.

The hypnotic ‘Low Winter Sun’ pulls you into a moody, synthesized soundscape evoking the chill that accompanies cold winter sunshine, before the potent ‘Where The Wind Decides To Blow’, taking its influence from Arthur Ransome’s ‘Swallows and Amazons’, adds adult nuances to the story’s theme. The references to ‘Swallows and Amazons’ crop up in two more songs, with Sarah using her love of these children's books to expand allegorical reach. ‘The Tide’ explores navigating a ‘safe channel’ through shallow water into the dangers lurking in life’s shallows’, while ‘Walking Into White’ expands on another life-parable of finding your way through enveloping fog.

The truly beautiful ‘Leave It For Another Day’ with its echoing guitars, deeply-moving lyrics and haunting vocals is a shiver-inducing song, ‘Canticle Of The Sun’ (better known as ‘All Creatures Of Our God And King’) repeats the splendour, while Sarah’s emotive take on Ewan McColl’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ performs the perfect close.

Dancing About Architecture

Walking Into White – Sarah McQuaid (Waterbug Records) reviewed by Dave Franklin
Sarah McQuaid doesn’t so much make albums, she takes journeys exploring various music traditions, Celtic, Appalachian and English Folk are all places she has so far visited and the records act like acoustic photo-albums that she gives us access to upon her return. For this latest album, both her method of travel and the type of journey have changed considerably. Not only recording in New York but also collaborating with producers outside the traditional folk and roots environment has some produced some surprising results.

There are still some many trademark McQuaid sounds, her amazingly rich voice, obviously, the medieval round of Jackdaws Rising, the poeticism and originality of the song crafting, but this time out she's playing with a musical palette that is broader in its scope and often much more contemporary.

On Yellowstone, for example, her vocal delivery lilts along in a way that conjures Janis Ian’s At Seventeen and is accompanied by some wonderfully evocative Spanish guitar from Dan Lippel. Brass even raises its head in the form of Gareth Flower’s trumpet adding a nice contemporary wash to tracks such as Silver lining and the title track itself.

Still at the core of much of the writing is that intangible elemental quality that threads through Sarah’s work, in the Sweetness and Pain triptych and the three part song cycle based on Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, the machinations of the natural world often used as metaphors for the trials and tribulations of life.

And as on The Plum Tree and The Rose when she chose John Martyn’s Solid Air to cover, here another iconic standard is re-imagined to great effect, this time Ewan MacColl’s “perfect love song” The First Time Ever I saw Your Face.

Change and evolution is always a good thing and Walking Into White really does find Sarah in some wonderfully new musical scenarios but there is still enough of a connection with the albums that came before as well. The result is an album that still appeals to her existing fan base but one that opens doors to a whole new, slightly more mainstream audience.

AltCountryForum

Sarah McQuaid – Walking Into White
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Bewondering, betovering en ontroering. Dat is way The Plum Tree and The Rose van Sarah McQuaid drie jaar geleden bij mij opriep. Het album eindigde dan ook hoog in mijn voorkeurslijstje van 2012. Daardoor keek ik reikhalzend uit naar de opvolger. Zou ze de ingeslagen weg aanhouden? Of zou ze, na drie albums te hebben afgeleverd die bloedmooi waren meer wel in elkaars verlengde lagen, kiezen voor een andere invalshoek? Een eerste vingerwijzing naar een nieuwe aanpak was het aanstellen van Jeremy Backofen en haar neef Adam Pierce als producers, twee heren die hun sporen verdienden in de roots- en rockmuziek. Het is vooral hun onbevangenheid tegenover folk die McQuaid zocht in haar wens om andere wegen in te slaan. Een tweede aanwijzing waren de songs die sporadisch werden vrijgegeven. Ze lieten een zangeres horen die haar muzikale wortels niet verloochende, maar tegelijkertijd de deuren wijd openzette om nieuwe invloeden binnen te laten. Die bredere aanpak, inclusief synthesizer, percussie en een bij tijden best stevige elektrische gitaar, zorgt op Walking Into White voor een klankkleur waarin folk, rock, pop en een vleugje flamenco in elkaar overvloeien.

Natuurlijk is de stem van Sarah McQuaid nog steeds het belangrijkste element op dit album, maar de soms ingenieuze arrangementen en de schwung waarvoor de producers kiezen, maken van Walking Into White behalve een buitenbeentje in haar oeuvre vooral een plaat die het avontuur zoekt en dat ook vindt. Een song als Leave It For Another Day is een exponent van die benaderingswijze. Het nummer rust op een fraaie melodie, maar ontleent extra kracht aan de feedback van Pierce’s Fender. Diezelfde aanpak, zonder feedback maar mét een synthesizer, maakt van Low Winter Sun met zijn repetitieve gitaarloopje een even verrassende als biologerende opener. Het daaropvolgende Where The Wind Decides To Blow zet de verrassing voort met regelrechte rockelementen. Ook in titelnummer Walking Into White, waarin trompettist Gareth Flowers een belangrijk aandeel heeft, blijkt het verruimen van folk met een andere stijl – een stevige dosis jazz – te leiden tot een uitstekende song. Met Yellowstone, opgedragen aan haar zoon Eli, grijpt McQuaid terug naar de afkomst van haar Spaanse vader en mixt ze flamenco met bossa nova: “My son can’t sleep / He’s ten years old / He’s scared that Yellowstone will blow”. Afsluiter The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, ‘one of the most perfect love songs ever written’, laat dan weer horen dat ze  op vocaal vlak naast de besten kan staan. Walking Into White is Sarah McQuaids avontuurlijkste, meest ambitieuze en gewaagdste album tot nu toe. En haar beste.

Thanks to Danny Guinan for the translation below!
Delight, fascination and enchantment. Those were the emotions that Sarah McQuaid's album The Plum Tree and The Rose inspired in me three years ago and earned it a high ranking on my list of favourite CDs for 2012. Since then I have eagerly anticipated her next release. Would she follow the same path she had chosen back then? Or, after recording three fabulous albums that were the logical follow-up to each other, would she choose a fresh perspective? The first indication of a new approach was her decision to appoint Jeremy Backofen and her cousin Adam Pierce as producers, both of them having a rich background in roots and rock music. Their open-mindedness with regard to folk music was exactly what McQuaid was looking for. Another indication that she was changing course was the sporadic release of a number of new songs in which we got to hear a singer who wished to remain true to her musical roots while at the same time leaving the door open to new influences. This broad-minded approach, including the use of synthesizers, percussion and robust electric guitar, results in a soundscape on Walking Into White in which folk, rock, pop and even a little flamenco are allowed to intertwine with each other.

Sarah McQuaid's voice remains the most important element on this album, but the producers' often ingenious arrangements and no shortage of verve make Walking Into White not only something of a maverick in her oeuvre but also an album that actively seeks, and finds, a sense of adventure. The song Leave It For Another Day fully exemplifies this change of approach. It features a beautiful melody, but is given extra power thanks to the feedback from Pierce’s Fender. A similar approach, this time using a synthesizer instead of feedback, helps make Low Winter Sun, with its recurring guitar riff, both surprising and spellbinding as an opening track. The second song, Where The Wind Decides To Blow, pursues this element of surprise, this time in a no-nonsense rock and roll manner. And the title track Walking Into White, featuring Gareth Flowers on trumpet, also shows how the broadening of her folk horizons with the addition of another style – a healthy dollop of jazz – can also result in a terrific song. In Yellowstone, which is dedicated to her son Eli, McQuaid reverts back to her father's Spanish roots and mixes flamenco with bossa nova: “My son can’t sleep / He’s ten years old / He’s scared that Yellowstone will blow”. The final track, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, ‘one of the most perfect love songs ever written’, proves that she is up there with the best of them when it comes to vocal ability. Walking Into White is Sarah McQuaid's most adventurous, most ambitious and most daring album to date. And her best.

FATEA

Sarah McQuaid
Album: Walking Into White
Label: Waterbug
Tracks: 14
Website: http://www.sarahmcquaid.com

"Walking Into White" is Sarah McQuaid's fourth solo album. Her previous release, 2012's "The Plum Tree and The Rose" was [and still is] one of my favourite albums of that year [and any other year, come to think of it].

Never one to rest on her laurels, Sarah has dared to be different for her latest offering. She has changed her producer, her studio and the result is an album which is more contemporary in texture and atmosphere than her previous ones. For her new album, Sarah travelled to Cornwall, New York [as opposed to her home in Cornwall, England] to record with her producer-cousin Adam Pierce and his collaborator Jeremy Backofen, both of whom are from the world of contemporary, rather than folk, music. The album was recorded in three snowy weeks in New York and, indeed, several of the songs have a wintry feel to them.

One of the influences on Sarah's songwriting for this album are the much-loved "Swallows and Amazons" children's books by Arthur Ransome. As we shall see, three of the songs here were directly inspired by these books, which Sarah reads to her children.

But let's start at the beginning. The album opens with a wash of synthesizer which leads into the atmospheric "Low Winter Sun", on which Sarah's guitar replicates the pattern of a peal of church bells.

The first of the three "Swallows" songs, "Where The Wind Decides To Blow" relates an incident where children make a sailing sled and get blown across a frozen lake at the mercy of a blizzard. This is followed by the second Ransome-inspired song, "The Tide" which is about navigating a safe channel through shallow water to avoid running aground. The third "Swallows" song is the title track "Walking Into White" which describes two children walking across a moor, only to be suddenly enveloped in thick fog, which prevents them from finding their way. This song features a delightful duet between Sarah's [as ever] beautifully-played guitar and the melodic trumpet of Gareth Flowers.

In all three "Swallows"-based songs, Sarah has used the randomness [or should it be Ransomeness ?] of the elements [wind, snow, tide and fog] as a metaphor for the vagaries of life in general and how to overcome them.

The instrumental "I Am Grateful For What I Have" has a typically beautiful melody by Sarah who is joined by Dan Lippel on classical guitar and Kivie Cahn-Lipman on cello to great effect.

"Jackdaws Rising"is a majestic three-part round with a distinctly medieval flavour to it which, with its layered vocals reminds me of David Crosby's masterpiece album "If I Could Only Remember My Name".

"Yellowstone" is a superb song of Sarah's about her son's fear that volcanoes around the world will explode simultaneously in a chain reaction. She tells him not to worry but then realises she has fears of her own over things she can't control. The song is given an exotic Samba feel by some stunning Spanish guitar by Dan Lippel.

The title of "The Silver Lining" is self-explanatory, in that it reveals Sarah as an optimist who can see the silver lining through the rain. The upbeat nature of the lyrics is emphasised by the energetic drumming of Adam Pierce and the tuneful trumpet of Gareth Flowers.

There are two non-original songs. The first of these will be familiar to many listeners as the hymn "All Creatures Of Our God And King". Here it has its original title of "Canticle Of The Sun" and Sarah's version is typically beautiful, as is her cover of the classic Ewan McColl song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", which he wrote for Peggy Seeger. I have to agree with Sarah when she describes this as "one of the most perfect love songs ever written".

So, in conclusion, have the changes made by Sarah for the recording of this album been a success?

The answer is, undoubtedly, "Yes". Sarah has produced another superb album, which sounds fresh and contemporary without compromising the subtlety and delicacy of her previous work. She is an artist at the top of her game and, like its predecessor, this is an album that I will turn to again and again.

Johnny's Garden

Sarah McQuaid: Walking Into White
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Haar eerste drie albums werden geproduceerd door Gerry O’Beirne. De eerste twee verschenen al in de jaren negentig, nummer drie The Plum Tree And The Rose pas in 2012. Dat kwam doordat ze van 1994 tot 2007 in Ierland werkzaam was als muziekjournalist. Door familiale omstandigheden verhuisde ze in 2007 naar Cornwall. Daar pakte ze de draad van haar muziekcarrière weer op. Vooral The Plum Tree And The Rose kreeg zeer positieve kritieken. Ondanks dat besloot ze voor de nieuwe CD geen beroep meer te doen op Gerry O’Beirne.

Voor Walking Into White trok ze van Cornwall, Engeland naar het kleine plaatsje Cornwall in Amerika, waar haar neef Adam Pierce een studio heeft. Adam Pierce produceerde samen met zijn vriend Jeremy Backofen de plaat. Met het aanstellen van hen nam ze een risico, omdat beiden geen ervaring met folkartiesten hebben. De keuze viel op hen omdat Sarah nieuwe muzikale wegen wilde inslaan. De eerste drie albums waren prachtig, maar kennen niet al te veel dynamiek.

Drie songs op Walking Into White zijn gebaseerd op de serie kinderboeken getiteld ‘Swallows and Amazons,’ geschreven door Arthur Ransome. De boeken gaan over vakantie-avonturen van kinderen. Ooit las ze deze boeken voor aan haar eigen kinderen, Lily Jane en Eli. Direct in Low Winter Sun is de invloed van Adam en Jeremy duidelijk, een duidelijk andere sound, een gitaar die klinkt als een piano en het gebruik van een jaren tachtig synthesizer zorgen voor een bijzondere sfeer. Where The Wind Decides To Blow is een heerlijk ritmisch, ietwat heavy up-temponummer. Vooral het halverwege invallen van de drums is geweldig. The Tide is een prachtige ingetogen song die ze samen zingt met Adele Schulze. In de voortreffelijke instrumental I Am Grateful For What I Have wordt de klassieke gitaar subliem bespeeld door Dan Lippen. Net als in Solid Air op The Plum Tree And The Rose schittert in de titelsong een trompet, ditmaal bespeeld door Gareth Flowers.

Zeer bijzonder is Jackdaws Rising, oorspronkelijk een instrumental van de groep Brocc en getiteld ‘13 Moons.’ Sarah schreef er een tekst voor. De melodie is 4/4 maar de percussie is in 5/4! Meerstemmige vocalen worden begeleid door handgeklap en stampvoeten. Een ongelofelijk ingewikkeld nummer, dat bijna onmogelijk live te spelen is. Yellowstone is een prachtige, ingetogen song over haar zoon Eli. Het roept bij mij associaties op met ‘At Seventeen’ van Janis Ian. De klassieke gitaar doet hier Spaans aan. Het uptempo The Silver Lining was al bekend als single. Leave It For Another Day, voorzien van een verrukkelijke melodie, schreef ze samen met Gerry O’Beirne. Een lied dat geheel via e-mail tot stand is gekomen. Ze is terecht trots op het resultaat. De CD sluit af met twee covers. Canticle Of The Sun is gebaseerd op de zeer bekende hymne ‘Lasst uns Erfreuen’ uit 1623. De oorspronkelijke tekst is van Franciscus van Assisi en later aangepast door William Henry Draper. Afgesloten wordt met de Ewan MacColl evergreen The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Dit lied wilde ze al heel lang opnemen.

Het inslaan van nieuwe wegen is wonderwel geslaagd, met dank aan de producers met hun verfrissende kijk op het geheel. Graag wil ik ook nog melding maken van het even prachtige als informatieve tekstboekje dat bij dit album gevoegd is. Walking Into White is wat mij betreft haar mooiste album tot dusver.

Thanks to Danny Guinan for the translation below!
Her first three albums were produced by Gerry O’Beirne. The first two date from the 1990s, while number three, The Plum Tree And The Rose, was released in 2012. The long interval was mostly due to the fact that she was busy working as a music journalist in Ireland between 1994 and 2007. Family circumstances prompted her to move to Cornwall in 2007 and it was there that she decided to reignite her musical career. The Plum Tree And The Rose, in particular, earned very positive reviews. However, for her new CD she decided not to use Gerry O’Beirne as her producer.

To record Walking Into White she made the long journey from Cornwall, England to the village of Cornwall in America, where her cousin Adam Pierce owns a studio. Adam Pierce produced the album together with his friend Jeremy Backofen. She took a risk putting the production in their hands, given that neither of them had any experience working with folk artists. Sarah was keen, however, to change direction, musically speaking. Though the first three albums were excellent, they were a little lacking in terms of dynamics.

Three of the songs on Walking Into White are based on a series of children’s books entitled ‘Swallows and Amazons’, written by Arthur Ransome. The books relate the holiday adventures of a group of children, stories that she has read to her own children, Lily Jane and Eli. Adam and Jeremy’s contribution is immediately evident in Low Winter Sun, with its patently different sound, including a guitar that sounds like a piano and a 1980s synthesizer that creates a whole new atmosphere. Where The Wind Decides To Blow is a pleasantly rhythmic and heavier up-tempo number. The introduction of drums halfway into the song is particularly impressive. The Tide, a duet with Adele Schulz, is a beautifully subtle song. Dan Lippel contributes his superb classical guitar skills to the outstanding instrumental I Am Grateful For What I Have. And just as in Solid Air on The Plum Tree And The Rose, a trumpet features majestically on the title song of the album, this time played by Gareth Flowers.

Jackdaws Rising is an extraordinary track and owes its origins to the instrumental ‘13 Moons’ by the band Brocc. Sarah added her own lyrics. The melody is 4/4 but the percussion is in 5/4! The multi-layered vocals are accompanied by hand-clapping and foot stomping. An extremely complicated number that is probably near-impossible to reproduce live. Yellowstone is a beautiful and restrained song about her son, Eli. It immediately made me think of ‘At Seventeen’ by Janis Ian. The classical guitar has an unmistakably Spanish touch. The up-tempo The Silver Lining has already been released as a single. Sarah wrote Leave It For Another Day, with its delicious melody, together with Gerry O’Beirne, a feat they managed to achieve entirely by e-mail. She can be proud of the result. The CD finishes up with two covers. Canticle Of The Sun is based on the well-known hymn ‘Lasst uns Erfreuen’, which dates back to 1623. The original text is from the hand of Francis of Assisi and was adapted later on by William Henry Draper. The Ewan MacColl classic The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face is the last track on the album and a song she has been dying to record for years.

Her decision to follow a new musical path has proven a success, thanks in part to the producers’ refreshing approach. I must also mention the booklet, as beautiful as it is informative, that accompanies this CD. Walking Into White is in my opinion her best album to date.

Rootstime

SARAH McQUAID – WALKING INTO WHITE
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Sarah McQuaid is een folkzangeres uit Cornwall, Engeland die voor de opnamen van de songs voor haar vierde studioalbum “Walking Into White”, de opvolger van “The Plum Tree And The Rose” uit 2012, helemaal naar New York trok om er met haar neef Adam Pierce en Jeremy Backofen als co-producers van deze nieuwe cd te kunnen samenwerken.

De zangeres schrijft haar liedjes meestal helemaal zelf, maar voor dit album koos ze er toch ook voor om één van haar favoriete liedjes aller tijden op sobere en akoestische wijze te coveren met “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, een folksong die de Britse singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl in 1957 schreef voor zijn toekomstige vrouw Peggy Seeger, maar vooral een lied dat in 1972 definitief in ieders muzikale geheugen werd gezongen door de Amerikaanse R&B-zangeres;Roberta Flack.

De begeleidingsmuziek bij de nummers op “Walking Into White” is meestal beperkt tot de akoestische gitaar die Sarah McQuaid zelf bespeelt en hier en daar een bijkomend instrument zoals elektrische gitaar met Adam Pierce in “Low Winter Sun” en “Leave It For Another Day”, piano in “The Tide”, cello in “Where The Wind Decides To Blow” en het geheel instrumentale “I Am Grateful For What I Have” of een trompet in titeltrack “Walking Into White”.

Verder speelt Adam Pierce op cajón en Dan Lippel op klassieke gitaar bij het akoestisch gebrachte nummer “Yellowstone”. De meest speciale song uit deze cd is “Canticle Of the Sun”, een vesper of kerkgezang dat in de 12e eeuw werd geschreven door Sint-Franciscus van Assisi. Het meest georkestreerde liedje op deze cd is echter “The Silver Lining” (zie video), een song die wij graag als beste track uit dit album hebben geselecteerd en die ook als eerste single werd uitgebracht.

“Walking Into White” is alweer een zeer aangenaam beluisterbaar album geworden en de songs op deze plaat kunt u in de komende maand zelf live gaan beluisteren tijdens de diverse optredens die Sarah McQuaid in Nederland en België zal komen geven. Misschien moet u dat gewoon maar eens een keertje doen.

Thanks to Danny Guinan for the translation below!
Sarah McQuaid is a folk singer from Cornwall, England, who made the long trip to New York to record the songs for her fourth studio album “Walking Into White”, the follow-up to her 2012 release “The Plum Tree And The Rose”. In New York she teamed up with her cousin, Adam Pierce, and Jeremy Backofen, who worked as co-producers on her new CD.

Most of the songs are self-penned, but for this album she also decided to do an acoustic cover of one of her own personal favourites, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, a folk song written by the British singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl in 1957 for his bride-to-be Peggy Seeger, but one that most of us remember from the version recorded in 1972 by the American R&B artist Roberta Flack.

Most of the musical accompaniment to the songs on “Walking Into White” comes in the form of McQuaid’s own acoustic guitar playing, with the addition here and there of other instruments, such as Adam Pierce’s electric guitar on “Low Winter Sun” and “Leave It For Another Day”, piano on “The Tide”, cello on “Where The Wind Decides To Blow” and the instrumental number “I Am Grateful For What I Have”, and a trumpet on the title track “Walking Into White”.

“Yellowstone” also features Adam Pierce on cajón and Dan Lippel on classical guitar. The track that stands out most on the CD is “Canticle Of the Sun”, a vesper or choral piece written by Saint Francis of Assisi in the 12th century. “The Silver Lining” (see video) features the most orchestration and gets our vote as best track on the album. It is also the first single to be released from the CD.

“Walking Into White” is a highly enjoyable album and you can avail of the opportunity to hear the songs live over the coming months during Sarah McQuaid’s tour in the Netherlands and Belgium. You won’t be disappointed.

Keys and Chords

Sarah McQuaid: Walking Into White
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Ze heeft een Spaanse vader, werd geboren in Madrid en groeide op in Chicago. Haar Amerikaanse zangeres, een toegewijd folkadept, bracht Sarah de beginselen van piano en gitaar bij. Ze bewaart ook goede herinneringen aan inspirerende ontmoetingen in het huis van oma in Indiana met haar neef Gamble Rogers, een getalenteerde singersongwriter. Op haar twaalfde reist ze door de VS en Canada met het kinderkoor van Chicago en op haar achttiende verhuist ze even naar Frankrijk. In ’94 trekt ze naar Ierland en is dertien jaar actief als muziekjournaliste in Dublin. Op het groene eiland vindt ze inspiratie voor ‘When Two Lovers Meet’ uit ’97.

In 2007 verkast Sarah naar Engeland, hetzelfde jaar wordt haar debuut opnieuw uitgebracht en een jaar later is er met ‘I Won’t Go Home ‘Till Morning een opvolger waarop de focus van de Ierse traditie naar de muziek uit de Appalachen verschuift. ‘Crow Coyote Buffalo’ is een samenwerkingsproject met Zoë. McQuaid is ook de auteur van ‘The Irisch Dadgad Guitar Book’, een instructieboek voor traditionalistisch georiënteerde fingerpickers. Op ‘The Plum Tree and The Rose’ werkt ze opnieuw samen met producer Gerry O’Beirne, er komt vooral eigen werk aan bod naast een fijne interpretatie van John Martyns ‘Solid Air’.

Tegenwoordig leeft ze met haar echtgenoot en twee kinderen in Cornwall. Voor de opnamesessies verhuisde ze in de winter enkele weken naar het gelijknamige plaatsje in New York. Haar neef Adam Pierce heeft daar een studio. Pierce leverde bijdragen op elektrische gitaar, toetsen en percussie en zorgde voor de productie van ‘Walking Into White’. Sarah begeleidt haar zang met akoestische fingerpicking die ook enkele instrumentale miniatuurtjes inkleurt.

Bewondering voor de natuur neemt een bijzonder plaats getuige nummers als ‘ Silver Lining’ en er is ook een fraai drieluik gebaseerd op ‘Swallows and Amazones’ een kinderboekenreeks van Arthur Ransome. Eerder componeerde Sarah al een song voor haar dochtertje Lily Jane, ‘Yellowstone is een prachtige ode aan haar zoon Eli Shields en wordt ondersteund door de klassieke gitaar van Dan Lippel, die horen we, geflankeerd door een cello, ook in ‘I Am Grateful For What I Have’, een sfeervol instrumentaaltje. Zelfs zonder instrumentatie maakt McQuaid indruk met enkele acapella gebrachte intermezzo’s en we worden even stil van haar wonderlijke interpretatie van Ewan MacColls klassieker ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Met ‘Walking Into White’ maakte Sarah McQuaid een verfijnd folkschijfje van haast tijdloos allure. Deze dame kan je op vrijdag 20 maart om 12 uur bewonderen op een gratis lunchconcert in Het Stadsmagazijn, Antwerpen.

Thanks to Danny Guinan for the translation below!
She has a Spanish father, was born in Madrid and grew up in Chicago. Her American mother, a dedicated folkie, introduced Sarah to the piano and guitar. She also has fond memories of the time she spent at her grandmother's home in Indiana with her cousin Gamble Rogers, a talented singer-songwriter. At the age of twelve she travelled the USA and Canada with the Chicago Children’s Choir before eventually moving to France when she was eighteen. In 1994, she moved again, this time to Ireland, where she worked in Dublin as a music journalist. It was on that green island that she found the inspiration for her first album ‘When Two Lovers Meet’ (1997).

In 2007, Sarah moved to England, released her debut album and followed it up a year later with 'I Won’t Go Home ‘Til Morning', which saw a shift in focus from the Irish tradition to the music of the Appalachian mountains. ‘Crow Coyote Buffalo’ was the result of a musical collaboration with Zoë. McQuaid is also the author of ‘The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book’, an instruction book for traditional-oriented fingerpickers. ‘The Plum Tree and The Rose’ saw her team up once again with producer Gerry O’Beirne for an album featuring mostly self-penned songs and a very fine interpretation of John Martyn's ‘Solid Air’.

These days she lives in Cornwall with her husband and two children. To record the new album, however, she decided to spend a few weeks in the village of Cornwall in New York, where her cousin, Adam Pierce, has a studio. Pierce plays electric guitar, keyboards and percussion on the album and also produced ‘Walking Into White’. Sarah accompanies herself with acoustic guitar fingerpicking, which also features on the instrumental tracks.

A number of the songs, like ‘The Silver Lining’, are an ode to nature and a splendid trilogy is based on ‘Swallows and Amazons’, a series of children's books written by Arthur Ransome. On a previous CD Sarah wrote and recorded a song for her daughter Lily Jane, and this time round 'Yellowstone' is dedicated to her son Eli Shiels. It features the classical guitar playing of Dan Lippel, who also contributes to the beautiful instrumental ‘I Am Grateful For What I Have’, accompanied by a cello. Even without the help of instruments, McQuaid impresses with a number of a cappella intermezzos, and her interpretation of Ewan MacColl's classic ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ is simply breathtaking. ‘Walking Into White’ is a stylish folk album with an almost timeless quality. You can see Sarah performing at a free lunchtime concert in Het Stadsmagazijn, Antwerp, at 12pm on March 20.

1 In Music

Sarah McQuaid
Walking Into White

At times resolutely folk in the most traditional way and at others bathing in some undeniably Jazz sounds and arrangements, Sarah McQuaid’s new album Walking Into White will not stand in the background. The production makes it noticeable, the CD sometimes sounding like vinyl strutting its imperfections to filter the superficial listeners. This is very much musicians entertaining their sensitivities and toying and warming their muses on colder winter hours. McQuaid’s vocals fit perfectly in the constant contretemps of counter-harmonies and have the quality required for the chosen instrumentation, breathing their rawness over the waves. Of all the tracks, “Yellowstone” is the quieter, subtly incorporating some Spanish airs to accompany a more toned down leading vocal, possibly to lift the introspective lyric. Of all the fusions and introductions of Jazz, “The Silver Lining” is the track that best captures the rhythm it embarks on, especially with a lyric that takes its listener by the hand. All in all, this album sounds like it has been fun to make and with background notes talking directly to you and me, and a cover of Ewan MacColl’s classic “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” thrown in, it might just be what the ear looking for an original fusion of jazz and folk was looking for: an arranged marriage that sounds like the journey of a vintage bourbon through a long winter night.

ConcertMonkey

SARAH McQUAID: Walking Into White
(English translation appears below French original.)

La sortie du quatrième album de Sarah McQuaid, "Walking Into White", est prévue pour le 2 février au UK and Europe, plus tard aux States. Sarah a quitté les Cornouailles anglaises pour enregistrer le disque à, il n'y a pas de hasard, Cornwall, état de New York, où sévissent les producers Jeremy Backofen et Adam Pierce. L'album a été enregistré en trois semaines.

'Low Winter Sun' ouvre, avec Sarah à l'acoustique et aux vocals et son cousin Adam Pierce au Fender. La plage, pimentée d'éléments psychédéliques, la reverb sur la voix, notamment, s'éloigne légèrement du folk traditionnel. Elle peut séduire les folk freaks de tous poils, ceux qui vénèrent Nick Drake ou Richard Thompson, tout comme les fervents d'indie pop.

'Where The Wind Decides To Blow': Sarah (ac. - vc.), Adam Pierce (bass, drums, Fender) et Kivie Cahn-Lipman (cello).Un upbeat psychedelic folk-pop inspiré par 'Swallows and Amazons', une série de romans d'aventure pour enfants d'Arthur Ransome (1884–1967). C'est marrant de retrouver l'esprit acide de l'époque Woodstock dans le rendu, un retour au flower power movement en somme.

'The Tide': Sarah (ac. - vc.), Adam Pierce + Rob King au piano et Adele Schulz aux harmonies. Comme la précédente, inspirée des 'Swallows and Amazons', et toujours les rapprochements avec des groupes tels que The Byrds ou Kaleidoscope (featuring David Lindley). Sarah utilise une métaphore comparant les marées et la vie elle-même.

'I Am Grateful For What I Have': Sarah - Kivie Cahn-Lipman et Dan Lippel (guitare sèche). Un instrumental empreint de classicisme que ne renierait pas Steve Hackett.

'Sweetness And Pain part 1': Une plage concise, chantée a capella, nous prouve une nouvelle fois que Sarah dispose d'une voix la classant aux côtés des plus grandes: June Tabor ou Maddy Prior.

Le titletrack, 'Walking Into White': Sarah et Gareth Flowers (Trumpet). Un dernier titre, mélancolique, inspiré par l'oeuvre d' Arthur Ransome. Superbe trompette en arrière-plan, picking délicat et voix diaphane. Un highlight!

'Jackdaws Rising': Crédité Sarah McQuaid- Pete Coleman- Clare Hines. 'Jackdaws Rising' est en fait une adaptation, pourvue d'un texte, de l'instrumental '13 Moons' de Brocc dont font partie Coleman et Hines. Le canon est interprété par Sarah, Adele Schulz et Martin Stansbury, handclaps and footstomps added by Adam Pierce et Jeremy Backofen. Un morceau polyrythmique, original, acrobatique et audacieux.

'Yellowstone': Sarah, Dan Lippel ( guitare classique) et Adam Pierce (cajon). Un titre lumineux composé pour son fils Eli, avec mise en exergue du magnifique travail Paco De Lucia de Dan Lippel.

'The Silver Lining': Sarah - Jeremy Backofen (bass) - Adam Pierce (drums) - Gareth Flowers (trumpet). Sorti en single il y a quelques mois, ce folk pop nerveux, dans la lignée de certains Sheryl Crow, Janis Ian, Carly Simon ou Carole King, brille par sa ferveur optimiste.

'Sweetness And Pain part II': Un nouvel interlude a capella.

'Leave It For Another Day': crédité Sarah McQuaid et Gerry O’Beirne. Sarah (ac. - vc.), Adam Pierce (Fender). Retour au ton psychédélique pour cette composition en duo. Gerry O’Beirne, brillant folk singer irlandais, avait produit les albums précédents de Sarah.

'Sweetness And Pain part III': Suite et fin de la trilogie poétique.

'Canticle Of The Sun' (All Creatures Of Our God And King). Le 'Laudes Creaturarum' de Saint François d'Assise dans la version paraphrasée par William Henry Draper. Sarah + Martin Stansbury (organ) et Adam Pierce (organ, vibraphone). Sarah aime s'attaquer à des thèmes ancestraux, sur l'album précédent elle avait écrit 'In Derby Cathedral' en pensant à la Comtesse de Shrewsbury inhumée dans la Cathédrale de Derby.

'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face': signé: Ewan McColl. Une version intimiste du chef-d'oeuvre popularisé par Roberta Flack. "I think it's one of the most perfect love songs ever written" nous confie Sarah.

Un album brillant ouvrant de nouvelles perspectives pour Sarah McQuaid.

Début du UK tour le 19 février. Puis les Pays-Bas et le 20 mars Het Stadsmagazijn, Antwerpen!

The release of Sarah McQuaid's fourth album. "Walking Into White", is scheduled for the 2nd of February in the UK and Europe, later in the States. Sarah left the English Cornwall to record the album in, not entirely by accident, Cornwall, New York, where producers Jeremy Backofen and Adam Pierce work. The album was recorded in three weeks.

"Low Winter Sun" opens, with Sarah on the acoustic guitar and her cousin Adam Pierce on Fender. This track, peppered with psychedelic elements -- notably reverb on the voice -- gently distances itself from traditional folk. It will appeal to folk freaks of all kinds, those who worship Nick Drake or Richard Thompson, just as much as to devotees of indie pop.

"Where The Wind Decides To Blow": Sarah (acoustic guitar, vocals), Adam Pierce (bass, drums, Fender) and Kivie Cahn-Lipman (cello). An upbeat psychedelic folk-pop song inspired by "Swallows and Amazons", a series of children's adventure novels by Arthur Ransome (1884-1967). It's amusing to find the acid spirit of the Woodstock era in the record -- in essence a return to the flower power movement.

"The Tide": Sarah (acoustic guitar, vocals), Rob King on the piano and Adele Schulz on harmonies. Like the preceding number, inspired by "Swallows and Amazons", and still inviting comparisons with bands like The Byrds and Kaleidoscope (featuring David Lindley). Sarah uses a metaphor comparing tides with life itself.

"I Am Grateful For What I Have": Sarah, Kivie Cahn-Lipman and Dan Lippel (classical guitar). An instrumental full of classicism that Steve Hackett wouldn't disown.

"Sweetness And Pain I": A concise track, sung a capella, proves to us once again that Sarah possesses a voice in the same class as the greatest: June Tabor or Maddy Prior.

The title track, "Walking Into White": Sarah and Gareth Flowers (trumpet). One last number, this one melancholic, inspired by the work of Arthur Ransome. Superb trumpet in the background, delicate guitar picking and a diaphanous voice. A highlight!

"Jackdaws Rising". Credited to Sarah McQuaid, Pete Coleman and Clare Hines. "Jackdaws Rising" is actually an adaptation, provided with lyrics, of the instrumental "13 Moons" by Brocc, of which Coleman and Hines are members. The canon is performed by Sarah, Adele Schulz and Martin Stansbury, with handclaps and footstomps added by Adam Pierce and Jeremy Backofen. A polyrhythmic piece that's original, acrobatic and audacious.

"Yellowstone": Sarah, Dan Lippel (classical guitar) and Adam Pierce (cajon). A luminous number composed for her son Eli, featuring Dan Lippel's magnificent Paco De Lucia impression.

"The Silver Lining": Sarah, Jeremy Backofen (bass), Adam Pierce ( drums), Gareth Flowers (trumpet). Released as a single a few months ago, this nervy folk pop number, in the style of Sheryl Crow, Janis Ian, Carly Simon or Carole King, shines with its optimistic fervour.

"Sweetness And Pain II": Another a cappella interlude.

"Leave It For Another Day": Credited to Sarah McQuaid and Gerry O’Beirne. Sarah (acoustic guitar, vocals), Adam Pierce (Fender). It's back to the psychedelic tone for this collaborative composition. Gerry O’Beirne, a brillant Irish folk singer, had produced Sarah's preceding albums.

"Sweetness And Pain III". Continuation and conclusion of this poetic trilogy.

"Canticle Of The Sun (All Creatures Of Our God And King)": The "Laudes Creaturarum" of Saint Francis of Assisi, in the version paraphrased by William Henry Draper. Sarah, Martin Stansbury (air organ) and Adam Pierce (air organ, vibraphone). Sarah likes to tackle ancestral themes; on her previous album she wrote "In Derby Cathedral" while thinking of the Countess of Shrewsbury buried in Derby Cathedral.

"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face": Written by Ewan MacColl. An intimate version of the masterpiece popularised by Roberta Flack. "I think it's one of the most perfect love songs ever written," Sarah confides.

A brilliant album that opens new perspectives for Sarah McQuaid.

UK tour starting 19 February. Then the Low Countries and on the 20th of March Het Stadsmagazijn, Antwerp!

insurgentcountry.net

Sarah McQuaid
Walking Into White

It happens sometimes, that I'm a bit overwhelmed after listening to a new record, absorbing and trying to understand all the music and subsequent information that was given to me. One of these moments where I ask myself: "Who am I, to review a great album like this?" After all, I myself can't even play a guitar.

I wasn't familiar with Sarah's work, it was first introduced to me by former fellow DJ Peter van Zeijl, who has impeccable taste when it comes to classy female (alternative) folk singers! Sarah is not only a very smart songwriter, but also a brilliant guitarist and she has a rich, strangely compelling, warm voice. This is an ambitious one-of-a kind project, that she pulled off very professionally. A combination of seasoned craft and innovative ideas, while the lyrics read like poetry. I just love the charming idea to use children's books as source of inspiration. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" - when I first started listening to the radio, Roberta Flack's version was a major hit, so this recording rekindles a fond memory.

Last but not least: every album ought to be made like this, with a beautiful lay-out and an lavishly illustrated booklet with all the information a person can possibly think of. Highly recommended, music lovers, you will be just as impressed as I am, guaranteed!

The Cornishman

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The Irish World

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The Connacht Tribune

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The Irish Times Ticket Magazine

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The Orcadian

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Club Passim Blog

Artist Center Stage: Sarah McQuaid
Rising star Sarah McQuaid’s voice has been likened to malt whiskey, melted chocolate and “honey poured into wine” (Minor 7th). A captivating performer, she seduces her audience with cheeky banter and stories from the road, as well as with stunning musicianship; in her hands, the guitar becomes much more than merely an accompanying instrument. Born in Madrid (to a Spanish father and an American mother), raised in Chicago and holding dual Irish and American citizenship, Sarah McQuaid refuses to be pigeonholed. Her musical output reflects her own eclectic background: she spans the genres with both her beautifully crafted originals and her interpretations of material from around the globe and down the centuries. Sarah is also the author of The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book, described by The Irish Times as “a godsend to aspiring traditional guitarists.” She has presented workshops on DADGAD tuning at festivals and venues around the globe, as well as here at The Passim School of Music. We had a chance to speak with Sarah about how she became the artist and Passim family member she is today.

Looking back on such a long line of accomplishments, can you name an event that occurred in your music career that has helped shape who you are as a musician?
The move to Cornwall in 2007 was a real determining force in the direction of my current musical career, because it was through doing that this that I met Zoë (author and performer of 1991 hit single “Sunshine On A Rainy Day”) and co-wrote the songs for the Mama album with her. That’s what made me really start to see myself as a songwriter. Prior to that I’d thought of myself more as a song interpreter who happened to write an occasional song. Working with Zoë on the songs for that album [Crow Coyote Buffalo, released in 2009] taught me an awful lot about songwriting and inspired me to start working harder on writing my own songs.

How would you describe your musical style in your own words?
I draw from lots of different genres – folk, jazz, traditional, contemporary, classical, medieval – but I try and bring my own individual style and feel to whatever I do. One thing a lot of people have commented on is that my guitar playing is very much to the fore of what I do — I’m playing harmonies and counter-melodies and counter-rhythms on the guitar, so it’s almost as though my guitar and voice are doing a duet, rather than the instrument just backing the voice.

What draws you to the stage?
There’s a buzz and a magic when you’re performing live in front of an audience that it’s impossible to replicate in the studio or at home. I love it when people at the audience talk back to me, and when I’m getting a good reaction from the crowd it seems to turn my energy level up a notch and make me play and sing better than I would otherwise.

What brought you to Club Passim?
Both the club and the school of music are lovely places to play and teach—really nice staff at all levels, and everyone is very friendly and welcoming. Club Passim was actually the first solo gig that I ever did in the USA, back in February of 2010. It was the first show of my first solo US tour, and I also gave a DADGAD guitar workshop at the Passim School of Music the day before the gig. I have played at Club Passim and given workshops several times since. The workshop I’m giving on this tour will be the fourth one I’ve done at Passim School of Music.

What has been your favorite Club Passim moment?
I had a very emotional moment on that first visit to Club Passim, in February 2010. I’ve got a lot of family in Boston, so I had a bunch of aunts and uncles and cousins in the audience, none of whom I’d seen for a long time as I’ve been living outside the US for most of my adult life, first in Ireland and now in England. I played a song that I wrote about my mother, who’d died six years previously, and looking at all those people at the front tables who’d known and loved her, I couldn’t stop a couple of tears from rolling down my cheek — and then I saw them dabbing at their eyes and fishing for tissues as well. It was lovely, though.

What do you see for the future of your musical endeavors?
Right now I’m working hard on putting material together for my next album, which I’m hoping will be out early in 2015. In the meantime I’ll keep touring hard and doing as many press interviews as I can. I’m in the middle of an eight-week US tour at the moment, with long drives every day and concerts pretty much every night, so it’s hard to see past tomorrow. It can be crazy, but I’m enjoying it immensely!

The Huffington Post

Sarah McQuaid is an excellent singer, songwriter and guitarist whose music crosses the borders among Celtic, English, and Early music. Her voice has the smoke and savor of a good single malt whiskey, and she uses it beautifully. Her debut CD, When Two Lovers Meet, was reissued a few years ago. It's a quietly powerful album of mostly traditional material that stands up there with the classics of Celtic music. On "When a Man's In Love" she reminds me of the version performed by Lisa Moscatiello with The New St. George almost twenty years ago -- and that's a ringing endorsement from me! Other songs given lovely arrangements include "The Sprig of Thyme," "When Two Lovers Meet," and "The Parting Glass." McQuaid leads several sets of tunes with accomplished DADGAD guitar playing. Guest musicians include some of the finest in Irish music, including Gerry O'Beirne on strings (who also produced and co-arranged the album), John McSherry on pipes and whistles, and Niamh Parsons on voice.

McQuaid's latest album, The Plum Tree and the Rose, finds her excelling as a songwriter. She now lives in England, and many of the songs have an English theme, but the singing and playing continues to have an Irish feel. Her original song "Hardwick's Lofty Towers" tells the tale of the prominent lady Bess of Hardwick (1521-1608), Countess of Shrewsbury, in language that would be equally at home in Irish traditional ballads or Shakespeare sonnets. It's part of a loose trilogy of songs with "In Derby Cathedral" and the title song; the former is about the place where Bess is buried, while the latter sounds like Bess musing on one of her late husbands. All three songs explore the question of the meaning of life in quiet, personal terms. Three arrangements take on Early Music: a Provencal troubadour song by Ellian du Cadenet (1160-1235), a lute song by John Dowland (1563-1626), and the catch "New Oysters New," which was published by Thomas Ravenscroft (1582-1635), who also gave us "Three Blind Mice." McQuaid's approach provides a good example of how a folk-trained vocal style can benefit such songs, turning them into accessible music without harming their delicate complexity. Her fine work, supported again by O'Beirne and a cast of musicians including Rosie Shipley (fiddle), Trevor Hutchinson (bass), and Rodd McVey (keyboards), results in a lovely album that sparkles with intelligent writing, moving music, and pristine production.

McQuaid will be on tour in the US in September. Check out the schedule and go if you can -- she's an excellent performer and always delivers the goods.

Bright Young Folk

The Plum Tree and The Rose
Sarah McQuaid
Although of American and Irish descent, Sarah McQuaid has produced an album which is dripping with Englishness. Self-penned songs inspired by English people and places (Bess of Hardwick, Derby Cathedral, Kenilworth) sit alongside Elizabethan classics by John Dowland (Can She Excuse My Wrongs) and Thomas Ravenscroft (New Oysters New - a collection of street cries).

Sarah ties her own songs neatly to the Elizabethan ones by the use of canons in several songs, which balance the Ravenscroft beautifully. One comes at the end of Derby Cathedral, while the other, In Gratitude I Sing, is a track in its own right and finishes the album. Derby Cathedral is also given a south American flavour with the inclusion of some unobtrusive brass.

There are echoes of Joni Mitchell in What Are We Going To Do and The Plum Tree and the Rose both in the style of delivery and musing subject matter.

Two unusual inclusions on the album are a cover of John Martyn’s Solid Air, also with subtle brass, and the ancient Occitan song S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada. Here, the minimal accompaniment of shruti, almost imperceptible percussion and occasional strummed strings punctuate the text giving the song a very mysterious air.

The Plum Tree and the Rose is a collection of beautiful songs which delight the ear.

The Sunday Independent

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Hot Press

FOLK THAT: SARAH MCQUAID
She’s always followed her muse. But now folk star Sarah McQuaid is adding some intriguing new innovations to her live act.
Described in her press release as a ‘rising folkie’ you might argue that Sarah McQuaid’s star had long since ascended to the heavens. She is on tour across Ireland and the UK at the moment. If you follow her tour diary you’ll know these forays generally consist of Sarah and trusty tour manager Martin trekking wherever the shows take them.

This time, however, things will play out slightly differently. In Scotland, she’ll perform four concerts ‘in the round’ with fellow songwriters Bill Adair and Richard Grainger. In Farncombe, Surrey, she’ll be backed by Godalming Community Gospel Choir. In June, as part of the Golowan Festival in Penzance, she’s supported by three secondary school students from Mounts Bay Academy, where Sarah gave a songwriting workshop earlier this year.

“As a solo artist, I don’t often get the chance to perform with other musicians and singers. I’m happy to be doing so much collaborative work on this tour. I know the gigs in Scotland with Bill and Richard will be great. I’ve done a couple of ‘in the round’ performances over in the States. It’s nice to be able to exchange ideas and harmonies in an off-the-cuff, informal way.

“When Julian Lewry at Farncombe Music Club asked me if I’d like to try working with a gospel choir, I got excited. I sang with a children’s choir for many years and today participate with my local church choir. It’ll be a real honour to have the choir in Godalming joining me.”

With a voice likened to malt whiskey, melted chocolate and “honey poured into wine” she’s carved out a reputation as a captivating performer, capable of seducing an audience just as readily with cheeky banter as with stunning musicianship. Her musical output reflects an eclectic background. Born in Spain, she was raised in Chicago, holds dual US and Irish citizenship, and now lives in rural England. Refusing to be pigeonholed, she spans the genres with her beautifully crafted originals and interpretations of material from around the globe and down the centuries.

The Irish leg of her tour concludes at Seamus Ennis Cultural Centre, Naul (April 26) and Walton’s New School of Music, Dublin where she’ll be giving a one-hour DADGAD Guitar Workshop (27). Later that evening she plays the Conary Community Hall, Avoca, Co. Wicklow.

Blabber 'n' Smoke

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose

Inevitably there are albums sent to Blabber’n'Smoke that just don’t get reviewed. Some aren’t very good, others just get swallowed up in the pending pile and by the time we get around to them the release date has been and gone so we move on to the next and more current contender. However with the best of these orphans we keep an eye out for opportunity and this time around we can dust off Sarah McQuaid’s fine The Plum Tree and The Rose from last year as Sarah’s about to go on a hop across Scotland.

McQuaid has a fairly exotic background, born in Madrid to a Spanish father and American mum she was raised in Chicago, holds dual US and Irish citizenship, and now lives in England. It may be fanciful to suggest that this is reflected in her selection of the songs here however they include a song sung in the ancient Occitan language (from Southern Europe) along with others written in 1597 and 1609! The immediate attraction of the album however is McQuaid’s voice which is warm with a low register and although it’s quite distinct from that of the late Sandy Denny’s McQuaid has a similar air of authority and empathy with the songs that Denny had.

Speaking of Denny there’s a lot about the album that recalls the blossoming of modern folk around the late sixties and early seventies. A cover of John Martyn’s Solid Air for starters. This is a tough one to consider as the original is seared in the memory but McQuaid keeps it simple with just guitar and a doleful trumpet turning it into a late night dram friendly obituary. Apart from this McQuaid is very taken with the guitar tuning DADGAD which was Bert Jansch’s calling card and the best parts of the album recall his and John Renbourne’s peregrinations with Pentangle while Kenilworth has a smidgeon of David Crosby’s ethereal If Only I Could Remember My Name about it. There are some excellent songs here all buttressed by some immaculate playing. The jazzy intimations of The Sun Goes On Rising and So Much Rain showcase the writing while the medieval feel of Hardwick’s Lofty Towers, New Oysters New and Can She Excuse My Wrongs bring us right back to the likes of Denny and Renbourne who could hush packed halls with renditions of 500 year old songs much in the same way I’m sure McQuaid would do these days.

McQuaids’s UK tour started in Ireland a week ago and she’ll be in Scotland for four shows from May 1st as part of an “in the round” presentation with Bill Adair and Richard Grainger. After this she heads south. All dates are on her website.

The Irish Post

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The Evening Herald

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The Afterword

The wolf at Sarah McQuaid's door
I had the great pleasure of seeing Sarah McQuaid doing her thing at a cosy and delightful venue (a little arts centre/cafe at an outdoor pursuits place in the middle of nowhere AKA County Tyrone) last week.

Put it like this, 60-odd miles out from Belfast, I stopped at Beaghmore stone circles (also in the middle of nowhere) as the sun was easing its way downwards and strolled for a while, alone but for birdsong, then got lost on B or C roads, then found the place...

I was still in good enough time to have a beer, sit outside with a book and fend off a strange man in a football top who started a conversation about how you often find yourself on a 'pee cycle' with someone over the course of a long night at a boozer. (I wouldn't know: I don't go for long nights in boozers - certainly not the kind that guy hangs around, I'd hope.)

Sarah played for maybe 25 people, but a small crowd made no difference - it was a wonderful evening: a warm, intimate show in an unhurried environment and everyone felt part of it.

I've posted her fabulous 'Derby Cathedral' around here before, and will surely do so again. But for now, here's another of her songs - this one (from a fairly recent house concert) about the glass being half full, the sun always rising despite the furry predator hanging around the doorway.

When I said a small crowd makes no difference, that isn't quite true: it makes a difference to Sarah's living.

She's on tour in Scotland (early May) then around England (rest of May).

Details here: http://ats.sarahmcquaid.com/calendar.html

Support her if you can - she's a lovely woman, and the world needs more of her.

The Irish World

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Folker

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Tykes News

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Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose
Waterbug

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Sarah McQuaid was born in Spain, is of Irish heritage, grew up in Chicago and now lives in Derbyshire [Cornwall, actually! and I'm not exactly of Irish heritage but we'll let that slide - S.McQ.]. Influences from all those widespread roots are evident on her third album which sets her own finely crafted lyrics against some surprising, much older pieces.

The album begins with the very contemporary Lift You Up and Let You Fly, which, in every respect, would be a standout track on any Mary Chapin Carpenter album. However, it is a curve ball. Instead of an album of American-influenced songwriter material, Sarah next takes us to Hardwick’s Lofty Towers, a celebration of the visionary 16th century designs of Bess of Hardwick: it’s one of three songs inspired by great English buildings – the others celebrate Kenilworth and Derby Cathedral, atmospherically summoned to the accompaniment of a distant trumpet. Among this trio of architectural anthems, sits an exquisite version of John Martyn’s Solid Air, a smoky jazz interpretation with Sarah’s guitar weaving melodies around Bill Blackmore’s trumpet phrases: John would have loved it.

By now, you know it is an album of contrasts and surprises, all delivered with authority and sensitivity which tie the album together – a 12th century aubade in medieval French, a Thomas Ravenscroft catch, a Dowland lovesong (the last is a truly subtle showcase for Sarah’s skilled guitar-playing).

The thread that runs through the album is the philosophical questioning which underlies most of the songs, significantly including the title track. A delight to hear but also something to thing about. One marvels at the verbal dexterity which can epitomise a vast and resonant cathedral in a deft eight word refrain:-

Soul, flesh and bone
Glass, wood and stone.


Any fear that the album may seem fragmentary is perfectly resolved by the final track – a minute long gem called In Gratitude I Sing, an original Thanksgiving canon sung in impeccable unaccompanied six part harmony. It ties the album’s many strands into a brilliant baroque bow, a melodic masterpiece in miniature.

The track (and the album) end all too quickly. Thank goodness for the replay button.

Living Tradition

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Moors Magazine

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Sarah McQuaid staat met één voet in de traditionele folk van eeuwen, en ze zingt ook af en toe liedjes die eeuwen oud zijn, soms prachtig a capella, soms met fraaie, pure folkarrangementen, maar McQuaid heeft ook een andere kant die ik nog net een tikkeltje interessanter vind. Je kunt het al zien aan haar keuze om ‘Solid Air’ van John Martyn op haar nieuwe album uit te voeren, een moeilijk nummer, omdat Martyn folk en jazz op een vrij unieke manier met elkaar combineerde en zo jazzy zong dat dat vrijwel onnavolgbaar leek. Maar McQuaid voelt zich door deze improviserende, soepel swingende manier van folk blijkbaar zeer aangesproken, en haalt er ook gerust een trompettist bij, en durft het avontuur echt aan.

Dat levert een spannend album op, van een zelfverzekerde singer/songwriter die voor een groot deel eigen werk brengt. Ze heeft een beste band om zich heen staan, met onder meer Gerry O'Beirne en Trevor Hutchinson, Bill Blackmore op trompet, en nog wat muzikale grootheden. Vier fragmenten om te laten horen hoe goed ze is. Het album opent met ‘Lift You Up and Let You Fly’, het perfecte lied voor kinderen. ‘Kenilworth’ is haar eigen jazzfolkliedje, ‘New Oysters New’ is een liedje dat vierhonderd jaar oud is  en titelnummer ‘The Plum Tree and the Rose’ is van Sarah zelf en wordt gewoon solo door haar gespeeld en gezongen. Al met al: een juweel van een album.

Thanks to Danny Guinan for the translation below!
Sarah McQuaid may be an artist with one foot firmly planted in traditional folk – she sings a number of songs that are centuries old, sometimes beautifully a cappella, sometimes using wonderfully pure folk arrangements – but she also has another side to her that I find even more interesting. A side exemplified by her choice to include a cover of ‘Solid Air’ by John Martyn on her new album, a difficult number given Martyn’s unique combination of folk and jazz and his jazzy vocal that would seem to defy any attempts at a cover. However, McQuaid is obviously very attracted to this improvised and soulful interpretation of the folk idiom and is not put off by the challenge, even going so far as to include a trumpet player in her arrangement.

The result is an exciting album by a self-confident singer/songwriter, the majority of the songs coming from her own pen. The band on the album, including Gerry O’Beirne, Trevor Hutchinson, and Bill Blackmore on trumpet, is excellent. You can listen to four snippets here and find out for yourself just how good she is. The album opens with ‘Lift You Up and Let You Fly’, the perfect children’s song. ‘Kenilworth’ is her very own jazz-folk number, the song ‘New Oysters New’ is four hundred years old, no less, and the self-penned title song ‘The Plum Tree and The Rose’ is performed solo by Sarah on guitar and vocals. All in all: a gem of an album.

The Entertainment Bank

The Plum Tree and The Rose (Sarah McQuaid)
Let me get right to the point about this CD. Sarah McQuaid's “The Plum Tree And The Rose” is the most distinctive and pleasant recording I have had the pleasure of coming across in quite some time. I recommend this one one highly! Here's why: Sarah McQuaid has a sound that would resonate in a King’s castle, or a gathering of people who would enjoy hearing songs about love, war, peace, and hope. Above all else, McQuaid’s voice is blessed with a calming, comforting sound that is so easy to listen to, so her lyrics enter the mind with no sonic abrasion. The music is a range of exceptional mellow rock that is a warm mix of contemporary folk music and Celtic nuances of texture, and tone. The band features electric piano, acoustic piano, lyrical trumpet, bass, and first rate drums. I actually needed “The Sun Goes On Rising”, which is like a lullaby for anyone being pounded by hardships. As a musician, it appealed to me harmonically because the classic chord changes fit so well against Sarah’s voice, and the brush work the drummer was doing really locked the groove in. One final note -- the recording quality of this CD is excellent, and the mix is as warm as the music. Simply stellar!!

Fatea Magazine

Sarah McQuaid
Venue: Bothy Folk Song Club
Town: Southport
Date: 18th November
Website: http://ats.sarahmcquaid.com/
Back in May of this year, I reviewed the then-new album by Sarah McQuaid, "The Plum Tree and the Rose" for this magazine. I wrote, with uncanny prescience, "It is a truly lovely album from start to finish and one that gets better with every listen". Six months later and I am still listening to this album on a regular basis and it's still a lovely album and it does get better with every listen.

I was, therefore, delighted when I looked at the guest list for my local folk club, the renowned Bothy Folk Song Club in Southport, and noticed that Sarah was booked to appear in November.

I was not to be disappointed as Sarah is just as good live as she is on her recordings. Armed with nothing more than her voice, an acoustic guitar and sound engineer Martin Stansbury, Sarah proceed to captivate the large crowd with her beautiful music. She began her set with the unaccompanied Sacred Harp hymn "Wondrous Love", which she learned from a 1956 record by Jean Ritchie and followed this with the traditional Irish song, the slightly risqué "The Next Market Day".

These were followed by several songs from the aforementioned "Plum Tree" album, beginning with the excellent "Sun Goes On Rising", a song about the hope that times of financial adversity will get better.

Sarah then told of how she came to write "Hardwick's Lofty Towers" and "In Derby Cathedral" about the historical figure Bess of Hardwick who built Hardwick Hall and was buried in Derby Cathedral. The former is a superb song which demonstrates Sarah's talent for writing songs which sound as though they come from the tradition, in much the same way that Sandy Denny did. "In Derby Cathedral" was originally intended to be a coda to "Hardwick's Lofty Towers" but it took on a life of its own and tonight Sarah's performance of it was simply stunning. By using live samples of her voice, Martin created a choir of Sarahs, to great effect.

As well as songs from "Plum Tree", we also heard several numbers from Sarah's previous album "I Won't Go Home 'Til Morning" which features the Southern Appalachian songs and tunes she grew up with, including "In The Pines" [complete with whoops and hollers], "Uncloudy Day" [written by Josiah Kelley Alwood in 1879] and "West Virginia Boys" [ with audience participation ]. Also from that album Sarah played the instrumentals "Shady Grove/Cluck Old Hen", which showed what a wonderful guitar player she is [Sarah is the author of The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book, incidentally].

Just to demonstrate her virtuosity on the instrument, Sarah played John Dowland's fiendishly difficult-to-play "Can She Excuse My Wrongs ", which was written in the sixteenth century for the lute.

Sarah is the mother of two children and she played a couple of songs that she has written for them, "Last Song" and "Lift You Up and Let You Fly ". The latter song, in particular, will strike a chord with every parent.

Towards the end of her set, Sarah played a couple covers, John Martyn's "Solid Air " [which was written for/about his friend Nick Drake] and, for a richly deserved encore, Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face". It takes a brave singer to sing those two iconic songs but Sarah is a brave singer and she performed them magnificently.

Thus ended a superb performance by Sarah McQuaid. I wholeheartedly recommend seeing her live but if you can't do that, have a listen to "The Plum Tree and the Rose " - you will not be disappointed.

StageBeauty.net

Sarah McQuaid
Square Chapel, Halifax.

Date of Performance: Sunday 4th November, 2012
Duration: 2 hours, 5 mins (one interval, total 20 mins)
Folk diva Sarah McQuaid sings a selection of songs taken mostly from her latest album.

Born in Spain where her father came from, raised in America, the homeland of her mother, married to an Irishman, in whose country her own two children were born, and now living in England, Sarah McQuaid has a truly international pedigree, reflected in her unique style of music which blends the American Appalachian folk influences taught to her by her mother with those of traditional English folk music. Fresh from a tour of the USA (a week ago she was in the dry heat of Texas!) this current UK tour (beginning here in wintery Halifax) delivers a selection of songs mostly taken from her latest album, "The Plum Tree and the Rose".

The music is an eclectic mix with a considerable degree of diversity. The Next Market Day is an Irish folk song which uses learning a tune as a euphamism for an altogether sexier activity. Delving deep in to English tradition, Can She Excuse My Wrongs is a 16th century composition, rearranged for acoustic guitar, which was written by a failed suitor of Queen Elizabeth. In a more contemporary but still classic English style is Hardwick's Lofty Towers, an original song inspired by a stately castle glimpsed from the motorway where it's owner, Bess of Hardwick, had sought to acheive immortality in name at least by having her initials inscribed atop each of it's towers. Another self-composition continues the English classic style, and in fact the Hardwick connection, in remembering some of the people buried In Derby Cathedral. West Virginia Boys draws upon her American heritage being a variation of an early twentieth century hill-billy song, 'West Virginia Gals', that in turn drew upon a much earlier minstrel composition. Shady Grove/Cluck Old Hen is a lively, purely instrumental acoustic guitar piece that demonstrates Sarah is a highly accomplished guitarist as well as a talented singer. In the contemporary cover piece, Solid Air, she pays tribute to two of her musical heroes, John Martyn, who wrote it, and Nick Drake, whom it is reputed to be about. But my particular favourite of the evening was one of the more contemporary in style of her own compositions - Lift You Up and Let You Fly, a beautiful lullaby inspired by her daughter and describing the worries of over-protective motherhood when the time comes to cut the apron strings.

Sarah's only accompaniment to her soft alto voice was her own guitar playing, although her sound technician added a reverb, or in some cases a distinct echo to some of the numbers so that Sarah provided her own vocal backing - all done live on the night without any pre-recording. The accent, essentially Chicagoan but softened and altered by many years living in Ireland and England, is as distinct as her music but never jarring, even when she is singing those old English songs. There are times when you miss a deeper musical accompaniment, but in an intimate studio environment the gentle music combined with Sarah's own welcoming personality to provides an evening of music that is richly rewarding.

Verdict
A rich voice, outstanding song-writing and musicianship, and a warm and welcoming stage presence combine in rewarding evening of musical entertainment.

North West Folk

Sarah McQuaid Talks to North West Folk
Sarah McQuaid is busy. In the days prior to this interview she had returned from a two month tour of the United States, only to embark on a 23 date concert programme in the UK less than a week later.

But then getting around is nothing new for her. Born in Madrid, to a Spanish father and an American mother, she was raised in Chicago before moving to Ireland. She now resides in South West England with husband and their two children.

Her latest album, The Plum Tree and the Rose has been met with enthusiastic reviews on both sides of the Atlantic and deservedly so. It is a subtle, exquisitely constructed collection of songs, drawing inspiration from a wide variety of influences.

Yet it marks a departure for her. McQuaid’s first release, When Two Lovers Meet, consisted mainly of Irish traditional material, the second, I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning was a tribute to old-time Appalachian folk. Of the thirteen tracks on The Plum Tree and the Rose, nine are self penned, some of them with producer Gerry O’Beirne.

She puts the increased confidence in her song writing abilities down to a collaboration with pop singer Zoe, the result of which was the album Crow Coyote Buffalo, released in 2008 under the group name of Mama.

“In between my 2nd and 3rd albums I made the Mama album with Zoe and it was writing songs with Zoe that made me really think of myself as a song writer. Up to that point I was thinking of myself as a folk singer who happened to write an occasional song. I’d one of my own songs on the first album, I had two of my own songs on the second album. If I found myself compelled to write a song I did. I didn’t go looking for songs.

“But once I started writing with Zoe, I really enjoyed the process of writing with her and I had huge respect for her abilities as a song writer, so if somebody like her was happy to work with somebody like me, I must be better than I thought I was. And so it was after that, that I started taking a bit more note of when I had ideas for a song.

“Writing is kind of a piecemeal process. I’d get an idea sitting in the green room for a gig, jot it down and then not actually sit down and work at it until months later and that’s still very much the way I write.”

That approach can lead to the final version of a composition being somewhat different than its original incarnation. The title track of The Plum Tree and the Rose is a case in point.

“I originally wrote it with similar words but a totally different melody and totally different rhythm and actually went out and toured with it and was never quite happy with it and put it away for a couple of years and then came back to it and did it as an acapella song with a different melody entirely and then wrote a guitar part for it and then wrote a guitar intro and outro for it, so that song was a long time coming together."

The Plum Tree and the Rose was originally conceived as a project on medieval and Elizabethan music. McQuaid’s first American tour changed all that. Her first two albums, unreleased in the States at that point, were combined into a double CD in order to be classed as a new release and gain air time on the radio.

The strategy was hugely successful. The double CD was number one for the month of February 2010 in the chart compiled for folkradio.org based on the playlists submitted by folk DJs. A switch of focus was called for.

“When I had that number one, did the tour and got lots of attention for it suddenly the next album I was going to make seemed a lot more important and I had a lot of people advising me that an album of early medieval and Elizabethan music wasn’t going to cut it.

“Meantime, I kept writing I suppose under Zoe’s influence, I was writing more and more songs and so I wound up going back into the studio and finishing some of the stuff I’d recorded earlier and also recording a bunch of new songs I’d written.”

One subject of conversation has been the cover of Solid Air that appears on the album, a potentially risky venture given John Martyn’s iconic status.

“People often quite like to hear something that is familiar. As long as it’s recognisable as the same song but not a slavish copy of the original. As long as you do something with it to make it your own.” The interaction between McQuaid’s guitar and Bill Blackmore’s trumpet provides that attribute.

“There was another track on the album In Derby Cathedral that I was really keen to have trumpet on so we got a guy, fantastic trumpet player to play on In Derby Cathedral and then he said, ‘well is there anything else you’d like me to do while I’m here?’ and I said ‘what about doing some trumpet on Solid Air?’ We liked what he did so much that the song wound up being a duet between trumpet and guitar.”

Unusually, perhaps, for a female vocalist, McQuaid’s guitar work gets equal billing with her voice, her style developing from the mid-teens onward.

“I was only nine when I started playing the guitar, but later on when I got a little bit older, when I got to be 14 and 15, actually developing a guitar style, I guess Joni Mitchell was the big influence, that’s how I originally started playing in a lot of different tunings.

“Later I discovered Nick Drake. I’d say Nick Drake was a huge influence in the sense that with Nick Drake you start to get that sense of the guitar almost dueting with the voice rather than accompanying it and that’s what I try to do with what I do on the guitar.”

These days, and for some time now, she plays only in DADGAD tuning, writing a book on the subject, The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book, published in 1995, which is still in print.

“I was eighteen when I discovered the tuning. I was living in France for a year. I was at a festival in Brittany. Some fella I met at the festival, a French guy, don’t know his name, nobody well known or anything like that. I was playing in an Irish band at the time and he said ‘oh, if you’re playing Irish music you should really be using this DADGAD tuning, it’s what all these other Irish players are using.’

“I put the guitar into that tuning and tried out a couple of chords and just thought ‘ah, this is great. This is what I’ve been looking for, for ages. This is finally how I can make the sounds that I want to make.'"

The future looks bright for Sarah McQuaid, if somewhat hectic. “I’m starting to think about the new album. I’m not under huge pressure to put out another one for a year or two. It seems clear that song writing has to be the direction I take for the next album. I’ve got a lot of ideas for songs.

“There are some other projects that I’d like to do that don’t involve my own songs. I’d love to do an album of Rogers and Hart songs. I’d love to do another guitar book too, a book about DADGAD guitar accompaniment and have a really eclectic collection of songs in there written out with chords and tablature. I’d love to do a gospel album. I love those old bluegrass gospel numbers like Down in the River to Pray and Wondrous Love.

“There’s all kind of projects I have in mind, but it’s finding time to do them, especially with all the touring I do, I’m round about six months on the road. It’s best to fit more project oriented , creative stuff in there. I’d love to write a musical!”

Irish Music Magazine

SARAH McQUAID
The Plum Tree and the Rose
Waterbug Records
13 Tracks, 47 Minutes
www.sarahmcquaid.com

This is a fascinating release that has a wonderful combination of the old, sometimes very old, and the new. McQuaid has a voice very well suited to all the tracks and a heart that appears to appreciate the long folk tradition with a mind and a talent to almost replicate it while modernising it with style.

Her opening track Lift You Up and Let You Fly is from her own pen and is bang up to the minute with its theme of parents letting children go to make their own way in the world.

On the tracks Hardwick’s Lofty Towers and Kenilworth she reveals a wonderful empathy with the old style ballads of long ago with well written, arranged and performed stories of historical characters and events. Both songs are accompanied by extensive notes in the insert booklet giving us a nice historical background to better enjoy the stories. In Derby Cathedral she draws the listener into a leisurely stroll through an historic location. But life is not all about those long gone misty eyed days of yore with McQuaid. The Sun Goes on Rising brings us squarely back to 21st century reality of the “wolf at the door” and the consequences of recent economic past.

She delves back into the ballad canon with spirited renditions of songs from around 1600 with Can She Excuse My Wrongs and New Oysters New. It is amazing when we listen to such songs to realise that others – probably not the lesser beings of society – heard these very lyrics before Oliver Cromwell was a gleam in his mother’s eye.

The title track is another new song with a title and sentiment very much rooted in those earlier days. She closes proceeding with a beautiful song called In Gratitude I Sing and I suppose the listener will echo this with “in greater gratitude I listen”.

AllMusic Guide

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose

The word timeless is often bandied about when critics discuss folksingers, but it's actually an apt description for Sarah McQuaid's vocals and compositional style. She's traveled the world since she was a child, singing folk songs and soaking up folk culture. She lived in Ireland for 13 years and currently resides in England and sounds more like a British folkie than an American singer/songwriter. "The Sun Goes on Rising" sounds ancient, but it addresses the current economic downturn and although it says "things will get better," its bluesy tone and McQuaid's desolate vocal imply otherwise. McQuaid's crystalline picking and Rod McVey's piano grace "So Much Rain," a song of lost love with a folk/jazz feel. "Lift You Up and Let You Fly" is the prayer of a mother for her young child and it balances delicately on the cusp of overprotection and empowerment. McQuaid's vocal is full of the tremulous emotion every parent feels. The album includes several tasty covers as well. "Solid Air," a tune John Martyn wrote as a remembrance for Nick Drake, is as soulful and somber as Drake's music. McQuaid's vocal and Bill Blackmore's trumpet imbue the track with unbearable melancholy. "S'Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada" is a French troubadour song from the 1200s with a meandering melody that's perfect for showing off McQuaid's music and emotional range. John Dowland's 1603 hit "Can She Excuse My Wrongs" features some McQuaid's impressive Elizabethan-style picking and "New Oysters New," from 1609, sounds like a wandering street vendor's commercial for fresh shellfish.

Minor 7th

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and the Rose
Waterbug Records 2012

Her rich alto voice is like honey poured into wine - intoxicating but not overly sweet. She sounds like a Celtic singer more than anything else although she mixes it up with many folk styles including an Elizabethan ballad ("Can She Excuse My Wrongs") and a thirteenth century song written by Ellian du Cadenet. Most songs feature her lovely finger picked guitar but on the latter, "S'Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada," she plays an Indian shruti box. It offers a haunting drone while a South American tiple (a stringed instrument with a high pitch) played by Gerry O'Beirne offers color. They certainly aren't traditional for this type of song but the soundscape they create is perfect. Most of her guitar work feels open and crisp; I suspect that a lot of it is in an alternative tuning since she wrote a highly regarded book about Irish music and the DADGAD tuning. "Lift You Up and Let You Fly" is an original about letting a daughter spread her wings. "Hardwick's Lofty Towers" tells the interesting story of Bess of Hardwick, an astute woman from the 1500's who was wealthy not because she married four times but because of her sharp financial skills, a rare thing in those times when most marriages were arranged. There are layers of beautiful vocals and acoustic instruments in "Kenilworth," a song about poor Robert Dudley who tried to woo Queen Elizabeth I with a beautiful garden but was unsuccessful. John Martyn wrote "Solid Air" as a tribute to Nick Drake and here she gives it a bluesy feel with just her vocal, guitar and some very cool trumpet from Bill Blackmore. Although "The Sun Goes on Rising" is about hard financial times, it contains a lot of hope: "Morning comes and amber turns to grey / The sun goes on rising every day." She co-wrote "What Are We Going to Do" with Gerry O'Beirne and unlike most of this album, it has a contemporary feel with its modern lyrics and arrangement that includes congas. "New Oysters New" is a unique a cappella piece with three contrasting but complimentary voices. The parts weave in and out as do the vocals in the closing cut "In Gratitude I Sing," a six part round sung with Niamh Parsons and others. Gorgeous. The liner notes are extensive and give background for each cut. Refreshing in a time when many artists are forgoing the printing of lyrics or song background in CD booklets.

Folkwales Online Magazine

SARAH McQUAID
The Plum Tree And The Rose
(WBG 104)

Sarah was born in Spain, raised in Chicago and holds a dual Irish-American passport. Her lovely low voice is one to die for, and she’s a superb DADGAD guitarist and songwriter; she holds DADGAD workshops at festivals around the globe, and she’s also the author of The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book. She moved to Ireland, and currently is living in Cornwall. The Plum Tree And The Rose is a remarkable and beautiful collection, enhanced by Sarah’s incisive and penetrating poetry, style of performance and inspiring choice of repertoire.

Sarah writes as a caring mother in Lift You Up And Let You Fly, as a historian in the pretty and imposing Hardwick’s Lofty Towers, and as an artist painting a detailed artwork of Kenilworth gardens and its bejewelled aviary. Solid Air, the tribute which the late, great John Martyn wrote for his friend Nick Drake, is a masterpiece, with Sarah solo on guitar and Bill Blackmore on trumpet. In Derby Cathedral captures the magnetism of this ancient, stunning monument, The Sun Goes On Rising centres on the recession and the hard economic times that affect everybody, and S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezeda takes the listener back to medieval Provence and the Occitan poet and troubadour Ellian de Cadenet, who lived from c. 1160 to c. 1235.

Sarah lingers in ancient mood for two more songs, John Dowland’s Can She Excuse My Wrongs (which has a startling and difficult guitar harmony line) and New Oysters New, one of Thomas Ravenscroft’s rounds and catches in which she sings with Niamh Parsons and Tom Barry of the Galway Baroque Choir. She returns to contemporary songwriting with So Much Rain and What Are We Going To Do, which she co-wrote with Irish studio producer Gerry O’Beirne, who makes an absolutely sterling job of Sarah’s CD. She easily avoids the incongruous chasm between modern writing and her love of Elizabethan and medieval music, which Sarah moulds into a moving, unique art form for today.

The title track is the most saddening and mysterious of all. Sarah says it was several years in the making and has a lot of emotional resonance for her. According to Sarah, can a person’s spirit exist in the physical things they leave behind? All in all, The Plum Tree And The Rose is an outstanding CD with spot-on production, and Sarah thanks all the team and the fine musicians who made it so.

More Than The Music

Fast Five: Sarah McQuaid
When did you begin making music, and did you ever ponder a different career?
I’ve been making music ever since I can remember — I toured with the Chicago Children’s Choir from the age of seven and started writing songs and performing them while I was still in my teens. However, I only became a full time musician in 2007. Prior to that I worked as a journalist. It was very frightening to leave the security of a steady job for a career as a touring performer, but I’m very glad that I did!

How would you describe your music?
I try not to be bound by the definition of any particular genre. My influences range from singer/songwriters to jazz to classical and early music, and when I write a song I’m not aiming to please any particular audience — I’m just trying to write the best song I can write, and hope that it will be meaningful to others. One thing that reviewers mention a lot is that with me, it’s really a duet between my voice and my guitar, rather than the guitar merely accompanying the song. It’s a comment that always pleases me when I hear it.

What have you been up to so far and what can we expect over the coming months?
I just released my third solo album last March, on the Chicago-based Waterbug Records label. The album was a big departure for me in that it’s the first one to feature mostly my own songs, so I’m delighted that it’s been getting lots of airplay and amazing reviews — I’ve never been described as “incendiary” before! Now I’m gearing up for a very intensive few months of touring — 56 gigs from the 1st of September to the 2nd of December, in both the USA and the UK.

If you could duet with anybody who would it be and why?
James Taylor. If there’s one musician I’d emulate it’s him — he’s such a consummate artist in so many ways: great songwriter, wonderful singer with such a natural laid-back style, terrific instrumentalist and a riveting live performer. And on his website he shows great generosity of spirit — he even puts up video guitar lessons so fans can learn how to play his songs properly!

What’s your desert island disc and why would you take this one album?
I never get tired of listening to the Bach Cello Suites — sorry if that sounds awfully highbrow! When I’m concentrating really hard on a big piece of work, I’ll just have it on a continuous loop — somehow it keeps me relaxed and focused at the same time, which isn’t easy to achieve.

fRoots

fRootsAugSept2011

Click here to download PDF of article.

USA Today

Buildings, Songs, England: Sarah McQuaid
Songs arise in many different ways. A songwriter might be inspired by a walk by the water, a chance conversation with an acquaintance, a turn of the weather. But architecture? For Sarah McQuaid, a visit to Hardwick Hall, which was built in 1590 near Chesterfield in Derbyshire in the midlands of England by Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury, proved a springboard for her imagination.

“I found myself wanting to know more about the woman who built it, and whose initials dominate the roof line,” McQuaid says. Research at first offered her ideas of a woman who attained great wealth by manipulating her fortunes to outlive several husbands. Reading her letters, though, McQuaid found that the countess, informally known as Bess of Hardwick, shared a genuine affection and understanding with her spouses, and that her wealth came from her own good choices in managing finances. In a few well worded verses in her song Hardwick’s Lofty Towers, McQuaid draws a memorable portrait of the character of the woman who chose to create Hardwick Hall as her legacy and emblazon her initials upon it.

A sacred space offers the frame for a different song on McQuaid’s album The Plum Tree And The Rose, a piece which is both gentle and haunting. McQuaid evokes the passage of lifetimes and the nature of change as she considers the names and monuments and stained glass of a great church in her song In Derby Cathedral.

McQuaid knows landscapes, and how to put them into song: she was born in Spain, raised in Chicago, lived for some years in Ireland, and now lives with her family in England’s southwest. From that base she spends six months each year on the road with her music, both giving concerts and teaching workshops on guitar. She has a number of dates set in North America and in the UK in the coming months.

Songs from The Plum Tree And The Rose will be part of these performances. Differing perspectives on change weave through all the songs on the album, from a troubadour song sung in an ancient language to various voices of people standing on the edge of changes in love in songs both original and from history, to a contemplation of the passage of time shown through landscape, conversation, and children in the title track. Lift You Up and Let You Fly finds McQuaid contemplating the joys and bittersweet aspects of helping a child grow, and an original canon of thanksgiving in which McQuaid’s graceful alto is joined by the voices of five fellow musicians brings things to a thoughtful close.

The Alternate Root

(“Featured Artists of the Week” for week commencing Friday, 6 July, 2012)
Sarah McQuaid

Sarah McQuaid pitches a folk tent in the campground of genre peers on The Plum Tree and The Rose. Vocally, Sarah offers warm resonance in her delivery, an intimacy that shares texture with artists such as Judy Collins, Odetta and Joni Mitchell on album tracks “The Sun Goes on Rising”, “Lift You Up and Let You Fly”, “So Much Rain” and “What Are We Going to Do”. Sonic comparisons to Sandy Denny and Maddy Pryor come to mind on “Hardwick’s Lofty Towers”, “In Derby Cathedral”, “Can She Excuse My Wrongs”, “Kenilworth”, “New Oysters New” and the title track, as Sarah treads the paths of old English folk ballads to track the ghosts in her rural England home. The Plum Tree and The Rose honors folk tradition from the British Isles through the Appalachian mountain range. Sarah McQuaid has a voice that captures air on the first note as it sails across jazz piano riffs and sparkling guitar work on her third album effort.

Shire Folk

Shire_Folk_Review_Sarah_McQuaid

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose
Waterbug Records WBG104

With Irish and Appalachian folk emphases, singer, guitarist and composer Sarah McQuaid's two previous solo recordings reflected her widely peregrine life experience across the USA and Europe. This quite different and diverse offer further reflects her keen musicological bent.

So, a 13th century Provencal troubadour's 'Alba' ('dawn song'), sung with Old Occitan pronunciation and accompanied by Indian shruti box and South American tiple, joins 16th and 17th century English traditional material by John Dowland and Thomas Ravenscroft (the charming round New Oysters New).

The evident passion for history comes out in songs about Bess of Hardwick, Robert Dudley's efforts at courtship of Good Queen Bess (via his pleasure garden at Kenilworth) and Derby Cathedral, cleverly combining period atmosphere with contemporary feel. Other self-penned material (some written jointly with accompanist guitarist/producer Gerry O'Beirne) explores life, times and the universe poetically, philosophically and reflectively.

Musically, there's the wonderful voice - a rich, deep, and mature alto with slightly accented edges; a pitch perfect instrument offering plenty of lyrical intimacy. Ariane Lydon's voice is similarly distinctive and, overall, June Tabor and Martha Tilston are perhaps useful comparisons. Then there's the elegantly crafted guitar work, discreetly enhanced by flugelhorn, trumpet, fiddles, keyboards, double bass, and percussion.

Gentle and sublime, but at times moving and intense, it's genuinely enchanting. Several folk, jazz and classical influences are finely woven into arresting and alluring patterns in the chord combinations and nuanced musical detail in the interplay of melodies, bass and rhythms. In short, it's intelligent and beautiful music.

Living Tradition

Sarah_McQuaid_2012_07_Living_Tradition_Review

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose
Waterbug Records WBG104
There’s no getting around it, Ms McQuaid gets better with every album! Hers is truly a world class talent – no argument – and her previous outing having been largely focused on the Appalachian traditional songs she knew from her childhood in the USA, this new offering swings the balance in favour of self and co-written material. Reflecting her aesthetic family background (Father – Spanish artist, Mother – American art critic), the eclectic tastes and influences that Sarah has assimilated over 30 years or so of performance in a variety of genres are reflected in a recording with strength and depth making for a rich, emotional musical excursion.

Lift You Up And Let You Fly (“though my belly made you, I can’t hold you, I can’t cage you”) is as confessional and poignant as it sounds and the mood overall is well, ‘atmospheric’. The Elizabethan items – John Dowland’s Can She Excuse My Wrongs? and the round New Oysters New – are totally engaging, contrasting with her reflective In Derby Cathedral where she meditates on there-and-then as opposed to the here-and-now – in fact there’s a fair amount of lyrical contemplation throughout.

Gerry O’Beirne is once again the sonic mandarin behind the desk, bringing out the best in the airy melodic qualities of Sarah’s vocals and the structured, concise arrangements are wholly complementary.

The McQuaid voice is not a flinty one and is ideally suited to songs with a passionate intensity, such as her cover of John Martyn’s Solid Air where Bill Blackmore’s trumpet is almost trance-inducing and the vocal burns with a brilliant allure. Lucid and quite magical at times, Sarah McQuaid transcends mere craftsmanship with inspiration and innovation on this record – it’s intelligent, grown-up music. Non-believers and newcomers can both shop here with confidence!

Folker

Sarah_McQuaid_2012_07_Folker_Review_Plum

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose
(Waterbug Records WBG104, 13 Tracks, 47:02, mit engl. Texten u. Infos
(English translation appears below German original.)

Meistens geht es um die grossen Dinge: Warum und wozu sind wir eigentlich auf der Welt? Wie füllen wir dieses Leben aus? Sarah McQuaid hat ihre Antwort gefunden: Sie schreibt Songs, die nicht nur um solche Sinnfragen kreisen, sondern auch ums Politische in Gestalt von Wirtschaftskrisen und Armutsangst. Das alles trägt sie mit einer Stimme vor, die schnell an Joni Mitchell erinnert, nach einer Weile aber mehr Tiefe und Wärme erkennen lässt. Dazu spielt die Künstlerin, die in Spanien geboren wurde, in Chicago aufwuchs und heute im ländlichen England lebt, eine pointierte Fingerpicking-Gitarre in DADGAD-Stimmung, über die sie auch ein Lehrbuch geschrieben hat. Sie könnte gleich noch eines darüber verfassen, wie man Songs mit dichter Atmosphäre anreichert. So glänzt ihre Coverversion von John Martyns „Solid Air“ mit grosser Intensität, obwohl ihr dabei nur Bill Blackmore an der Trompete als Begleitung zur Seite steht. Gleiches darf von „Can She Excuse My Wrongs“ aus der Feder des Renaissance-Komponisten John Dowland behauptet werden. Die neun selbst geschriebenen Lieder des Albums stehen gleichwertig neben solchen Vorbildern, ohne deren Niveau zu beleidigen. Diese Frau hat Stil.

Thanks to Helen Kreuz for the translation below!
Mostly it’s about the big questions: Why are we here? What is life's purpose? Sarah McQuaid has found her answer. She writes songs that not only deal with these questions, but make a political statement on economic problems and the fear of poverty. She sings about all these themes in a voice that reminds us at first of Joni Mitchell, but on further listening has more depth and warmth. Born in Spain, raised in Chicago and now living in rural England, this artist plays a precise finger-picked style guitar in the DADGAD tuning, on which she has also written a book. She could write another one on how to enrich songs with profound atmosphere. Her cover version of John Martyn’s “Solid Air” is brilliant in its intensity, even though she’s only accompanied on this track by Bill Blackmore on the trumpet. The same can be said of “Can She Excuse My Wrongs”, from the pen of Renaissance composer John Dowland. The nine original songs on the album are just as excellent, with no discredit to the role models mentioned. This lady’s got style.

The Journal of the Classic Rock Society

Sarah_McQuaid_2012_07_Classic_Rock_Society_Review_Plum

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree And The Rose
Waterbug Records
Sarah McQuaid has a voice that oozes warmth and richness. Her gentle folk songs are accompanied by some stylish acoustic guitar playing which allows the voice to take command and draw you in to the stories. Now resident in the south west of England, Sarah McQuaid has lived in the US and Ireland and she has been able to draw on the folk traditions of all these places on this third album. There is a theme to some of the songs about the relationship between people and places, which gives rise to a couple of the album's highlights centred on Derbyshire – Derby Cathedral, with its haunting outro, and Hardwick's Lofty Towers. There is also a cover of Solid Air which is even more laid back than John Martyn's original.

Victory Review

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose

This was not an easy album for me to review. Essentially, it is a singer-songwriter album and consists of a lovely voice with assorted instrumentation. I have run across one or two of those in my days as a reviewer of CDs, so it should not have been a problem, but it was. The problem was not the quality of production or the musicianship or the quality of the vocals. Those were all completely excellent. The problem was the shifting origins of the album's music, and the subtlety with which it was performed.

By the end of the first song, "Lift You Up and Let You Fly," I thought, "Oh, this is going to be a contemporary Folk album", and there are parts that do that. Then I found myself listening to a jazz-inspired "Solid Air" of John Martyn's, complete with a Miles Davis sort of trumpet, and changed my mind. Then there was the drone of a Shruti Box (chordal drone) on "S'Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada" which was written in the 10th century as an Occitan "dawn song". Hmm.... Getting hard to keep up here.... Then there is an a cappella version of "New Oysters New," a series of rounds from 1609 with Niamh Parsons and Tom Barry.

And that sort of beautiful discontinuity continues throughout this extraordinary collection of different musical directions, each song fronted by McQuaid's breathy alto and featuring a delicate attention to instrumentation and nuance. This album is part blessing and part curse. The blessing is that once you descend into the layers of emotion and mood that the project encompasses, you find that it is a true musical gem and well worth a series of critical listens, each one expanding your appreciation for Sarah McQuaid and the collection of singers and players she has assembled to record this eclectic and lovely mix of material.

The curse is that you will be shown how your own musical prejudices and assumptions can cause you to skip over or dismiss work that is truly profound and deeply emotive. It may take a little work to get next to this album, but it will be absolutely and totally worth all of it. This is one for the keeping.

FolkWorld

Sarah McQuaid – The Plum Tree and the Rose
Waterbug; 2012

Let’s follow the path .... Sarah McQuaid was born in Spain, raised in Chicago, is a dual citizen of Ireland and the USA, and now lives in rural England. Although you may become a balanced folk singer/songwriter by studying many different forms of music and their geographies, it does not hurt to have this wide variety of world experiences to help you shape your music. McQuaid uses all of that and then brings in her deep, airy voice. Her quiet power is evident most in a delicate cover of John Martyn’s “Solid Air” using just her voice, her acoustic guitar, and a trumpet. “In Derby Cathedral” is also a powerfully deep, dark arrangement that reminds me of a subtler Loreena McKennitt. There are also shifts into more of a smoky jazz club feel, although the music is still folk based. Ultimately the meditative songs are the ones that amaze me most. I often think of Nico with deeper voiced female vocalists, but rarely use her as a comparison due to the arrangement differences. Here, there is some of the John Cale style production and arrangements evident in Nico’s “The Marble Index”. Just listen to the drone on “S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada” and it is hard to not think of John Cale. This is a powerful record that really grows as each song moves into your head.

Rock Jazz Pop

Sarah McQuaid – The Plum Tree and The Rose
(English translation appears below German original.)

Was macht eine Frau, die als Tochter eines Spaniers und einer Amerikanerin in Madrid geboren wurde, in Chicago aufwuchs, die amerikanische sowie irische Staatsbürgerschaft hat und nun mit ihrer Familie im ländlichen England lebt für Musik? Sarah McQuaid findet offensichtlich großen Gefallen an der alten, englischen Folkmusik.

Auf Ihrem neuen Album “The Plum Tree And The Rose” sind diese Einflüsse unüberhörbar. Mehr noch; sie arbeitet stilistisch und textlich mit den Elementen der frühen Neuzeit und hat sogar einige alte Lieder aus dieser Epoche für dieses Album aufgenommen. Zu allen Titeln gibt es im Booklet die Texte sowie Beschreibungen, die meist die Intention erläutern, wie es zum jeweiligen Stück gekommen ist. Auch hier zeigt sich vielfach das eingangs beschriebene Interesse zur frühen Neuzeit. Der Großteil der Songs wurde von Sarah McQuaid selbst, teilweise zusammen mit Gerry O’Beirne geschrieben. Gerry O’Beirne hat das Album auch produziert und spielt die Gitarrenparts.

Interessant an der Zusammenstellung der Songs ist, dass mich Stücke wie “Lift You Up And Let You Fly” oder “So Much Rain” an die Musik von James Taylor erinnern, jedoch wunderbar mit den traditionell anmutenden Titeln harmonieren. Die Verwandtschaft der alten britischen Folkmusik zum amerikanischen Singer-/Songwriter Genre ist somit erkennbar. Die Vorfahren von James Taylor kamen übrigens aus Schottland. Die Stimme von Sarah McQuaid lässt durchaus den Vergleich zu Carly Simon zu. Sie hat das gleiche Timbre. Und interessanterweise waren James Taylor und Carly Simon von 1972 bis 1983 verheiratet. Das alles passt wohl eher zufällig zusammen, aber die Verbindung ist dennoch irgendwie da und interessant! Wer also die Klangfarbe der Stimme von Carly Simon mag, mit der Musik von James Taylor etwas anfangen kann und ebenfalls einen Zugang zu alter englischer Folkmusik hat, könnte mit “The Plum Tree And The Rose” einen Volltreffer landen. Klanglich ist das Album überzeugend und wird dem Zuhörer Freude bereiten.

Thanks to Helen Kreuz for the translation below!
What kind of music can we expect from a lady born in Madrid to a Spanish father and an American mother, who grew up in Chicago, has Irish and American citizenship and now living in the English countryside with her family? Sarah McQuaid has found her love of old English folk music.

On her new album “ The Plum Tree & The Rose”, all these influences can be heard. Moreover, she works stylistically and textually with elements of the early modern period and has even recorded some of these ancient songs on this album. The album includes a booklet with lyrics, background information and information on how the songs came about. Here again we can find her interest in the early modern age. Most of the songs are written by Sarah McQuaid; some are co-written with Gerry O’Beirne. Gerry O’Beirne also produced and plays guitar on the album.

The combination of the songs on the album is very interesting – “Lift You Up And Let You Fly” and “So Much Rain” remind me of the music of James Taylor, but harmonise wonderfully with traditionally presented titles. The affinity of old English folk music to the American singer/songwriter genre is evident. By the way James Taylor’s ancestors came from Scotland. Sarah McQuaid’s voice can definitely be compared to Carly Simon’s. She has the same timbre. Interestingly enough, Carly Simon and James Taylor were married from 1972 to 1983. It’s only purely coincidental, but somehow the connection is interesting! So if you like the acoustic colour of Carly Simon’s voice, the music of James Taylor and you are into old English music, you will love “The Plum Tree And The Rose”. Sonically, the album is compelling and will delight the listener.

Green Man Music

The Plum Tree and The Rose – Sarah McQuaid
After exploring the traditional styles of Ireland and The Appalachians on previous albums, her third, The Plum Tree and The Rose, has its feet firmly planted in the dark clay of England’s folk movement, both contemporary and ancient.

One thing I always find speaks volumes about an artist and where they are coming from is the cover songs that they chose to include along side their own compositions; McQuaid’s choices are very revealing. With three songs garnered from the works of troubadours and renaissance players, a love and understanding of the roots of the genre become obvious and her fourth borrowing is a masterful cover of the hallowed ground that is John Martyn’s “Solid Air”. And the art of the right selections is that they blend in to the artist’s own songs with ease and they very much do.

The wonderful stories and pieces of history wrapped up in songs such as “Kenilworth”, “Hardwick’s Lofty Towers” and “In Derby Cathedral”, not to mention the effortlessly chilled musical arrangements, imbibe the songs with the weight of time and tradition and I would defy the listener to tell the covers from the original pieces, such is their authenticity.

But it’s not all double history or a Cecil Sharp House style open day; there are plenty of contemporary themes explored as well. The lilting groove and gentle optimism of “The Sun Goes on Rising” brings us bang up to date and songs such as “So Much Rain” and the title track itself explore universal themes in brilliantly poetic fashion.

The word timeless is banded around far too much these days, but this album comes as close to that accolade as any I have heard. Timeless in its lack of modern cliché, timeless in its inclusion of vast swathes of musical, not to mention factual, history and timeless in the fact that it could just as easily have been the product of the sixties folk revival as it is of this time.

This is the first of Sarah’s albums I have heard but if her previous works match the evocative exploration of (mainly) English folk that is found here, I think that they also are journeys that I will be taking very shortly as well.

Spiral Earth

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose

In contrast to Sarah McQuaid's previous solo albums, which explored the Irish and Appalachian songbooks, The Plum Tree and The Rose presents an eclectic array of material mirroring the changing landscapes of Sarah's own life: Sarah was born in Spain, raised in Chicago, and now lives in England.

Possessing some of the sultry hypnotism of John Martyn's acoustic music, it's apt to find a cover of 'Solid Air' with trumpet from Bill Blackmore taking the place of Danny Thompson's rubbery basslines. Continuing in the same languid spirit, 'Kenilworth' and 'In Derby Cathedral' present a distinctive centrepiece with Sarah's impressive voice and guitar backed with thoughtful band arrangements.

Enigmatic text is sung over a softly propulsive bed of shruti box and South American tiple for an 'alba' or 'dawn song' written in the 13th century - material sourced from over seven hundred years ago is a stretch for any artist but the results entirely justify the educational study involved. Followed by John Dowland's 'Can You Excuse My Wrongs', an Elizabethan piece arranged for Sarah and guitar, and 'New Oysters New', a round for voices published in 1609, the album starts to resemble a section of John Renbourn's discography. However, further originals bring unique dimensions tackling meaty topics regarding parenting and our own existence.

Sarah's albums are always a lavish affair, but this feels like her most complete to date, with class stamped all over it.

Nederlands Dagblad

Folk (4 stars)
The Plum Tree and The Rose
Sarah McQuaid
Waterbug/Munich Records
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

De Amerikaanse-Ierse Sarah McQuaid maakte in 1997 de Ierse folkplaat When Two Lovers Meet en in 2008 I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning, met muziek uit de Appalachen. Tekst en stem waren even warm als verstild. Dat is ook zo bij haar nieuwe plaat. Bijzonder is het geslaagde samengaan van zang, sobere gitaarbegeleiding en trompet, een instrumentkeuze die in folkkringen moedig en verrassend is. Gerry O’Beirne produceerde dertien mooie songs, speelt Zuid-Amerikaanse tiple en twaalfsnarige gitaar. Euphonium en trompet zijn voor Bill Blackmore, naast Rod McVey (toetsen), Trevor Hutchinseon (contrabas), Rosie Shipley (viool), Máire Breatnach (viool) en Noel Eccles (percussie). Veel volk, maar een helder, sober geluid. Er is een brief aan haar moeder in ‘Lift You Up and Let You Fly’. Heel mooi is ‘Solid Air’. Maar de trilogie ‘Hardwick’s Lofty Towers’, ‘In Derby Cathedral’ en het titelnummer overtreffen alles.

Thanks to Danny Guinan for the translation below!
The Irish/American singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid’s previous releases include the Irish folk album When Two Lovers Meet (1997) and I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning (2008), a recording of Appalachian music. Her voice and the lyrics on both albums were warm and tranquil. The same can be said of her new album. An exceptional feature is the successful combination of her voice, laid-back guitar arrangements and trumpet, a mix of instruments that is as surprising as it is courageous for a folk album. Gerry O’Beirne produced the thirteen beautiful songs and also added the South American tiple and 12-string guitar. Bill Blackmore contributed euphonium and trumpet, alongside a host of other musicians including Rod McVey (keyboards), Trevor Hutchinson (double bass), Rosie Shipley (fiddle), Máire Breatnach (fiddle) and Noel Eccles (percussion). Quite a crew, but the resulting sound is clear and focused. The song ‘Lift You Up and Let You Fly’ is an open letter to her daughter, and the cover of ‘Solid Air’ is outstanding. But it is the trilogy of ‘Hardwick’s Lofty Towers’, ‘In Derby Cathedral’ and the title track that steal the show.

Lonely Planet

Travel to an English Manor With Music
Destination: England
Music: The Plum Tree and The Rose by Sarah McQuaid (from Waterbug Records)
Article by Kerry Dexter

It has been nearly five centuries since Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury – more informally known as Bess of Hardwick – put her fortune and her imagination to work to commission the building of Hardwick Hall in the midlands of England. Still the hall stands, noted especially for its extensive use of large windows, unusual for buildings in the Renaissance. What’s also prominent in the design is the recurrence of Bess of Hardwick’s initials, ES for Elizabeth of Shrewsbury, worked into the stonework on the roof line.

All these things got singer and songwriter Sarah McQuaid thinking about what sort of person Bess of Hardwick might have been, and what sort of life she led. In history books she’s usually mentioned for great wealth and power, but McQuaid took a more personal focus for her song “Hardwick’s Lofty Towers”, which proves a thoughtful and illuminating idea of a woman’s life that connects across the centuries in just a few short verses.

McQuaid is well qualified to tell such a story: born in Spain, raised in Chicago, living for more than a decade in Ireland and now raising her family in the southwest of England, she brings a poet’s ear and a songwriter’s voice to the music she has chosen for The Plum Tree and The Rose. There are songs she’s written and songs from several sources recent and past that she covers. Some have to do with or are inspired by ideas from history, often English history, while others are more personal. Rather than offering history lessons only by fact, through all the songs McQuaid invites listeners to consider permanence and impermanence, and what may last and carry on after we are gone.

These ideas and questions play out in the title track, as McQuaid intertwines the legacy of memory with nature and family in The Plum Tree and The Rose, and considers the changes and uncertainties of love in the song “So Much Rain”. History takes its places again through reflection in the song “In Derby Cathedral”, and there is a meditation on the loving and letting go that comes with parenthood in “Lift You Up and Let You Fly”. Though that focus on time and change is perhaps less explicit through the other songs, it is there, as McQuaid looks at Robert Dudley’s courting of the first Queen Elizabeth in the song “Kenilworth”, covers songs by John Martyn and John Dowland, and closes with a six part canon called “In Gratitude I Sing”. Through the album, McQuaid’s many hued alto voice and creative guitar work are well supported by Trevor Hutchinson on double bass, Gerry O’Beirne (who produced the album) on guitar, Rosie Shipley on fiddle, Niamh Parsons on voice, and others.

Irland Journal

IrlandJournalReviewPlumTree

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose
(Waterbug Records,
13 Tracks)
(English translation appears
below German
original.)

Sarah McQuaid bringt mit “The Plum Tree and the Rose” ihr drittes Album auf den Markt. Zu hören ist sehr spezielle Musik von einer sehr speziellen Musikerin. Ruhig und zurückhaltend sind diese Lieder, intelligent in der Themenwahl, außergewöhnlich in der Präsentation. Begleitet wurde Sarah von solch grandiosen Musikern wie Gerry O’Beirne (auch Produzent des Albums), Trevor Hutchinson, Noel Eccles, Máire Breatnach und Niamh Parsons, wobei sie, selbst begnadete Gitarristin und Autorin eines Gitarrenbuches, das wohl auch alles ganz allein hätte schultern können - wie bei ihren Bühnenauftritten. Was aber mindestens so fasziniert wie die Musik selbst, ist die Auswahl der Themen, vor allem jene mit historischem Hintergrund, wie beispielsweise “Hardwick’s Lofty Towers”. Der Song handelt von einer Dame, die Ende des sechszehnten Jahrhunderts lebte und deren Wirken Sarah so sehr interessierte, dass sie einen Song über sie schrieb. Wieviel Recherche mag wohl notwendig sein, bis ein solcher Songtext letztlich zu Papier gebracht ist. Dieses Album ist jedes Hörens wert - aber Achtung: Man muss den Longplayer in Ruhe anhören, man muss sich Zeit nehmen und wirklich die Ohren spitzen, um ja nichts zu verpassen. Ein “Nebenbei mal so Mithören” hat diese Arbeit nicht verdient.

Thanks to Helen Kreuz for the translation below!
“The Plum Tree And The Rose” is Sarah McQuaid’s third album. This is very special music from a very special person. The songs are quiet and reserved, intelligent themes extraordinarily presented. Sarah is accompanied on the album by such superb musicians as Gerry O’Beirne (who also produced the album), Trevor Hutchinson, Noel Eccles, Máire Breatnach and Niamh Parsons, although Sarah herself, a brilliant guitarist and author of a guitar tutor, could have easily mastered this alone as she does in her stage performances. Just as fascinating as the music is her choice of themes, especially the historical background of tracks like “Hardwick’s Lofty Towers”. The song is about a lady who lived in the late sixteenth century and whose life’s work inspired Sarah to write this song. Imagine the amount of research it takes until a song like this is finished. This album is really worth listening to – but a word of warning: take time to listen to it carefully and keep your ears open so as not to miss a single detail. It deserves better than to be played as background music.

The Folk Diary

FolkDiaryPlumTree

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose
Waterbug WBG104
With a song entitled “So Much Rain” and a number of tracks with a distinct Elizabethan/Shakespearian flavour you could be led into believing that this is a very topical release, but it isn’t, and obviously wasn’t planned as such. In actuality, it’s a beautifully crafted collection of Sarah McQuaid’s own compositions, some written with Gerry O’Beirne, interspersed with a few works from the likes of John Dowland, Thomas Ravenscroft and John Martyn. What makes it so interesting is the fact that it’s not all that easy to spot which are the new songs and which are the old. I was particularly impressed by “Hardwick’s Lofty Towers”, “In Derby Cathedral” and “Kenilworth”, possibly because I spent my childhood in the Midlands and knew these landmarks very well - often visiting “Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall” – and they’re all McQuaid originals, but the whole album is a treat to listen to.

Maverick

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose
Waterbug Records WBG104
(5 stars)

Much like her heroine Bess Of Hardwick (“Hardwick’s Lofty Towers”), Sarah McQuaid has the intelligence and tenacity to cultivate her lyrics so that the legacy of her songwriting will remain long after she has passed away. If that sounds morose, it isn’t meant to be. It’s just that McQuaid’s way with words will draw you in and leave you feeling as if you’ve just stepped from an invigorating shower. She’s the kind of writer who conveys her thoughts brilliantly via the medium of music. Take for instance the opening track “Lift You Up And Let You Fly”: within a few short verses she is able to let the listener know the pain but understanding in watching a child’s development and eventual release into the world with all the compassion of a mum who (hopefully) doesn’t watch Jeremy Kyle. It has to be said that from a listener’s point of view this is where the producer and musician Gerry O’Beirne’s skill in utilising Bill Blackmore’s flugelhorn is an astute piece of placement. Think of Christy Moore’s “All For The Roses” if you’re unsure where you’ve heard this thought process before and, whilst on the subject of instrumentation, much as I’d like to name every musician who contributed to this beautifully crafted album, I’m afraid I can’t as I haven’t got the space. Let’s just say I’m bowled over with the creative input from everyone involved. In truth I could write a whole book on the subject of Sarah McQuaid’s way with words but perhaps that is best left to the lady herself. If you require any further incentive, why not check out the gorgeous single “The Sun Goes On Rising” which is available for your listening pleasure at www.sarahmcquaid.com/music.html and, like me, I’m sure you will be seduced by Sarah’s alto vocals and perfectly solid performance. In the meantime I suppose I’ll just have to kill time waiting expectantly to hear the next album which, if it’s anything like this recording, will receive another five out of five. Highly recommended …buy it, buy it, buy it!

Fatea Magazine

Sarah McQuaid
Album: The Plum Tree And The Rose
Label: Waterbug
Tracks: 13

Once in a while, you come across an album that stands out from the crowd. This is one such album. It is truly a lovely album from start to finish and one that gets better with every listen.

For those who do not know her or her work, Sarah has a cosmopolitan background. She was born in Spain, raised in the USA, studied in France, lived in Ireland for several years and is now resident in England. This is Sarah’s third album, the previous two being “When Two Lovers Meet” and “I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning”. The first one focussed on Irish songs and the second was founded in the old-timey music of the Appalachians and also featured Sarah’s own songs. This new album “The Plum Tree and The Rose” has its roots firmly in English soil. This time Sarah wrote nine out of the thirteen tracks and there are four covers. Apart from John Martyn’s sublime “Solid Air”, the remaining covers are all ancient songs, dating from the 13th, 16th and 17th Centuries.

The album begins with Sarah’s beautiful song “Lift You Up and Let You Fly” which is a touching song about a mother having to let her child fly the nest (“When I set you free and let you fly away from me, I know you might not come back”). I am sure that this song will strike a chord with all parents.

The next song is one of a trilogy of superb songs by Sarah that relate to historic places in England - “Hardwick’s Lofty Towers”, “Kenilworth” and “In Derby Cathedral”. The first of these tells the story of Bess of Hardwick and has the feel of a traditional song. The second, “Kenilworth”, sounds for all the world as if it is a long-lost track by The Pentangle as it uses a very similar jazz-folk style to that of the late Bert Jansch and colleagues. The third part of the trilogy, “In Derby Cathedral” is less traditional-sounding but features some beautiful brass playing by Bill Blackmore (who features on other tracks, notably “Solid Air”).

Talking of “Solid Air”, it is a bold move to cover such a classic, especially as John Martyn’s version is definitive and inimitable. However, Sarah makes a very good job of it, and does not attempt to follow John’s version. As previously mentioned, it features a wonderful trumpet solo by Bill Blackmore.

As well as historical themes, Sarah does not shy away from contemporary subjects in her songs. “The Sun Goes On Rising” deals with the economic downturn but has a hint of optimism - “Things will get better if only I can hold that wolf at bay”. This song was co-written by Sarah and the album’s producer Gerry O’Beirne, who also co-wrote “So Much Rain” and “What Are We Going To Do”. “So Much Rain” is a lovely song about lost love and features some gorgeous piano from Rod McVey.

One of the highlights is “S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada” which is a 13th Century “alba” or dawn song sung in Old Occitan. It is a very atmospheric track with a drone and tiple accompaniment. Moving forwards to the 16/17th Centuries, we have John Dowland’s “Can She Excuse My Wrongs” and Thomas Ravenscroft’s “New Oysters New”. The latter is sung as a round by Sarah, Niamh Parsons and Tom Barry. Sarah’s own “In Gratitude I Sing” is also sung as a round and is a song of thanks for the earth which concludes the album on a lovely note.

In conclusion, this is a very fine album and one that I would not hesitate to recommend.

Hot Press

HotPressReviewPlum

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree And The Rose
(4 stars)
ENGLISH FOLK-THEMED ALBUM TRANSCENDS THE CENTURIES
The latest album from Irish-American folk singer, guitarist and songsmith Sarah McQuaid is a seamless blend of her own compelling compositions and songs drawn from the rich history of English folk music.

Her ‘Lift You Up And Let You Fly’ is an evocative look at a mother seeing her child turning to adulthood, with Bill Blackmore’s sombre horn playing an inventive and unexpected foil to McQuaid’s delicious vocals. ‘Hardwick’s Lofty Towers’ and ‘Kenilworth’ – not, despite the title, an ode to the mighty Luton Town – are two fine originals, boasting a timeless quality. ‘S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada’ dates from 13th century Provence, and features an Indian shruti box played by Sarah herself. McQuaid also treats us to a captivating version of John Martyn’s ‘Solid Air’, with Blackmore’s evocative flugelhorn in support. The acapella ‘New Oysters New’ and ‘In Gratitude I Sing’ are tantalisingly short. Not a complaint you hear too often round here!

The Plum Tree And The Rose showcases how McQuaid’s immersion in the folk milieu gives her an instinct for creating new works that slot comfortably into that tradition – and are destined to last. She has turned in an album that should feature on many end-of-year best-ofs.

Keep Music Live

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose

Within 15 seconds of listening to this album, you realise that this is a very special CD from a unique and talented singer-songwriter. After the warm and delightful opener "Lift You Up and Let You Fly", you are then told the story of how an incredible lady in the late 1500s built the magnificent Hardwick Hall near Chesterfield, knowing she had created something special which would still be talked about for many years to come, very much like this album. The cover of "Solid Air" is a fitting tribute to Nick Drake who no doubt would nod in appreciation of a powerful and memorable rendition. In "Kenilworth" and "In Derby Cathedral", Sarah combines the asking of the big questions about life, while celebrating the human spirit and resourcefulness needed to face life's problems, which is revisited later with the album's title track. The economic state of the world and all its knock-on effects are brought to the fore with intelligence, compassion and integrity in "The Sun Goes On Rising". The listener is then taken on a wonderful insight to the music of hundreds of years ago and which are dramatically brought to life with "S'Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada", "Can She Excuse My Wrongs" and "New Oysters New" which takes us back to the 13th century, Elizabethan age and the early 17th century. The pictures Sarah paints vocally are so vibrant and strong in "So Much Rain" and yet highlight a delicacy within her delivery that creates an atmosphere of warmth and the performance in the next track ("What Are We going To Do") is a tribute to her talents. "In Gratitude I Sing" is a perfect end to an amazing album where the listener should be thanksgiving to a singer-songwriter who is without parallel. A classic.

Heaven Magazine

HeavenReviewPlumTree

Sarah McQuaid:
The Plum Tree and The Rose
Waterbug Records
Folkklassieker
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Als folkliefhebber op leeftijd gelden voor mij de jaren zestig met acts als Fairport Convention, Pentangle en Nick Drake als de hoogtijdagen van het genre. Eenzelfde ongekend hoge kwaliteit dicht ik graag het jongste album van de in Engeland woonachtige zangeres-liedjesschrijfster Sarah McQuaid toe. The Plum Tree and The Rose benevelt op alle onderdelen de zinnen. Allereerst is dat te danken aan het formidabele stemgeluid van deze zangeres. Een stem waarin de buigzaamheid van Sandy Denny’s vocalen leunt op de diepe tonen waartoe Marianne Faithfull in staat is. Combineer dat met haar veelzijdige spelbereik op de akoestische gitaar en een uniek vermogen klassiek klinkende folkliedjes te schrijven en je hebt eigenlijk enkel nog een groep excellerende instrumentalisten en een producer met verstand van folkmuziek nodig om van een topalbum te kunnen spreken. Welnu, op beide onderdelen heeft McQuaid de juiste keuzes gemaakt. Producer/gitarist Gerry O’Beirne heeft in de Marguerite Studios, Dublin het talent van de musici op juiste waarde geschat, waardoor de inkleuring van McQuaid’s liedjes de juiste accenten bevat. De hoofdprijs gaat naar trompettist Bill Blackmore die met McQuaid magie bedrijft in de John Martyn cover ‘Solid Air’.Voeg daar twaalf folkliedjes uit de hoogste categorie aan toe en je hebt als folkliefhebber een album in huis gehaald waarmee je decennia vooruit kunt.

Thanks to Renee Koopman for the translation below!
As a middle-aged lover of folk music, for me, 1960s acts like Fairport Convention, Pentangle and Nick Drake rank as the high season of the genre. I’d like to assign the same high quality to the latest album from England-based singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid. The Plum Tree and The Rose makes the senses swoon on all counts. First of all, the formidable voice of this singer. A voice in which the flexibility of Sandy Denny’s vocals leans on the deep tones of which Marianne Faithfull is capable. Combine this with her versatile range on the acoustic guitar and unique talent to write classic-sounding folk songs, and you only need a group of excellent musicians and a producer who knows what he’s doing to be able to speak of a top album. Well, McQuaid has made the right choices on both counts. Producer/guitarist Gerry O’Beirne has, at Dublin’s Marguerite Studios, judged the talents of the musicians rightly, so that the colouring of McQuaid’s songs contains the correct accents. First prize goes to trumpet player Bill Blackmore, who with McQuaid weaves magic on the John Martyn cover ‘Solid Air’. Add twelve folk songs of the highest category, and you have bought yourself an album that can last you for decennia.

R2

R2ReviewPlum

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree And The Rose
(4 stars)
Covering such an iconic song as John Martyn’s ‘Solid Air’ (his tribute to Nick Drake) is inevitably ambitious. That Sarah McQuaid carries this off is partly due to the haunting arrangement (featuring the burnished haze of Bill Blackmore’s trumpet underpinning her own vocal and guitar) but also because the singer’s throaty alto pitches perfectly with the reflective mood the lyric inhabits.

It’s Blackmore’s trumpet that opens and permeates ‘In Derby Cathedral’ with a Spanish tinge worthy of Miles Davis or Joaquin Rodrigo (a nod perhaps to McQuaid’s birthplace Madrid, though this is a very English sort of song and performance in spite of that flourish). Songs such as ‘The Sun Goes On Rising’ are bewitching because rather than in spite of their understated delivery. Behind the gentle lilt of the performance every note counts.

The recordings are diverse: there is a slight baroque feel to some of them, particularly on John Dowland’s 16th century ‘Can She Excuse My Wrongs’; alternatively, Cadenet’s even earlier – 13th century – piece ‘S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada’ has a more modern feel, partly due to the underlying pulse created by Noel Eccles’s percussion and the plucked notes from Gerry O’Beirne’s tiple. Very fine music making, indeed.

fRoots

fRootsReviewPlumTree

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree And The Rose

This finely-crafted disc expertly cradles Sarah’s elegantly poised, tenderly expressive singing voice and delicate guitar in quietly monumental arrangements benefitting from subtle deployment of choice accompanists (Niamh Parsons, Gerry O’Beirne, Bill Blackmore). Sarah’s own emotionally and historically resonant compositions are superbly complemented by Dowland, Ravenscroft and John Martyn’s Solid Air. Impeccable.

NetRhythms

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose (Waterbug)

Sarah's name is becoming increasingly well known in the UK through persistent touring and higher-profile exposure of late, but she remains something of a best-kept secret. More's the pity, for hers is a consummate talent – she's an exceptionally fine singer and a highly competent guitarist and writes thoughtful and attractive songs, while having great taste in selectively covering other folks' material alongside her proven feel for traditional song.

And yet, between 1997 and 2008, Sarah released only two solo CDs (both recorded in Ireland, where she was living at the time); together reflecting her musical background, these complemented each other well, for the first focused on Irish traditional music and the second celebrated old-time Appalachian folk. These were followed in 2009 by a mesmerising joint album with fellow Penzance resident Zoë (Crow Coyote Buffalo).

Sarah's long-awaited followup, The Plum Tree And The Rose, is satisfyingly listenable and, despite being stylistically more diverse, displays a keen consistency of vision and expression. The 13-track menu includes no fewer than nine of Sarah's own compositions, which themselves display influences from folk to jazz and old-fashioned popular song. Best of these are the trio of songs which are connected by metaphysical concerns: the themes of spiritual questioning and the relationship between soul and place. Standout among them is the powerful, emotionally and poetically resonant title song (whose melody seems incidentally to reference The Snows They Melt The Soonest), whereas the monumental In Derby Cathedral fairly drips genius loci (and forms an apt companion to Hardwick's Lofty Towers, Sarah's recounting of the story of Bess of Hardwick who happens to be buried there).

Kenilworth, which imagines a courtly ode sung to Queen Elizabeth I, provides a musical time-tunnel leading to a pair of tracks later on the disc which share a loosely Elizabethan timeline: John Dowland's plangent song of sexual frustration Can She Excuse My Wrongs? and a catchy little Thomas Ravenscroft round (New Oysters New).

The disc's remaining two covers are very much contrasted: a 13th century Occitan alba (dawn song) receives an enterprising and appropriately sparse shruti box and tiple backdrop, whereas on John Martyn's classic Solid Air Sarah's limpid vocal cascades duet fetchingly with Bill Blackmore's trumpet. Three of Sarah's songs were co-written with Gerry O'Beirne, whose sympathetic and even-handed production perfectly suits Sarah's special brand of artistic eloquence and accomplishment; The Sun Goes On Rising, a restless, anxiously shuffling socio-political commentary on the global economic downturn, is probably the finest of these jointly-penned items, but So Much Rain (a rumination on lost love and the changing of the seasons) runs it close.

A kind of elegantly minimalist understatement is a characteristic of Sarah's music, evidenced as much by her subtle, well nigh impeccable guitar playing as by the musical content of the closing track, In Gratitude We Sing, a delightful round for six voices (a mere trifle in terms of playing-time, but very appealing indeed) which features the voice of Sarah's friend Niamh Parsons. But the whole album is a sublimely well-crafted calling-card for Sarah's unobtrusive artistry.

Concerts-Review

Sarah McQuaid – The Plum Tree and The Rose
(English translation appears below French original.)

C’est en 2008, lors d’un concert à Toogenblik à Haren, que tu fais connaissance avec la folksinger, Sarah McQuaid, qui jouit de la double nationalité Américaine et Irlandaise.

A l’époque, elle venait de sortir un second album I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning, qui succédait à When Two Lovers Meet, sorti en 1997. 

Printemps 2012, une troisième plaque à son actif: The Plum Tree and The Rose, produite par le singer/songwriter/guitariste irlandais, Gerry O’Beirne, qu’on retrouve comme musicien e.a. chez Alan Stivell, Luka Bloom, Sharon Shannon et comme producer pour Patrick Street, Fiona Joyce ou Andy M Stewart.

Comme ingénieur du son, Sarah s’octroie les services du bassiste/contrebassiste Trevor Hutchinson (Lúnasa, The Waterboys, Sharon Shannon ...).

Outre ces deux pointures, on note la présence de Bill Blackmore (flugelhorn, trompette) – Rod McVey (claviers) – Rosie Shipley & Máire Breatnach (fiddle) – Noel Eccles & Liam Bradley (percussions) et Niamh Parsons, Tom Barry, Frances Hutchinson, Emer Ní Bhrádaigh pour seconder Sarah aux vocals.

Tous ces musiciens étant des habitués des musiques celtiques traditionnelles.

L’élégante et mélancolique pochette a été dessinée par l’artiste Mary Guinan, déjà responsable de l’artwork des albums précédents de Miss McQuaid.

The Plum Tree and The Rose contient treize titres: nine originals, parfois co-crédité Sarah McQuaid/Gerry O’Beirne, une cover, le formidable ‘Solid Air’ de John Martyn, et trois traditionnels ou ballades élisabéthaines, arrangés par la jolie chanteuse.

La délicate ballade ‘Lift You Up and Let You Fly’ ouvre l’album, le thème de la maman voyant s’envoler le fruit de ses entrailles n’est pas neuf, mais l’alto aux consonances Sandy Denny/June Tabor de Sarah, combiné à la sobre orchestration dominée par le bugle de Bill Blackmore, accroche d’emblée l’auditeur.

Le superbe ‘Hardwick’s Lofty Towers’ te ramène au folk d’inspiration élisabéthaine à la Pentangle, John Renbourn, Fairport Convention ou Maddy Prior.

Le duo trompette/voix jazzy sur ‘Solid Air’, que John Martyn avait composé en hommage à son ami Nick Drake, subjugue tout en te donnant des frissons au bas de l’échine.

Tout comme ‘Hardwick’s Lofty Towers’, ‘Kenilworth’ baigne dans un mystérieux et raffiné climat aux senteurs Tudor.

Le majestueux ‘In Derby Cathedral’ termine la trilogie 16ème siècle en pensant notamment à Bess of Hardwick, enterrée dans la célèbre cathédrale du Derbyshire. Le titre se meurt en polyphonie liturgique. Beau!

Le socialement engagé et, vocalement proche de certaines compositions de Joni Mitchell, ‘The Sun Goes on Rising’ traite, selon les propres dires de Sarah, des “hard economic times we’ve all been going though of late.”

Cadenet, circa 1200, ‘S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada’, chanté en vieil occitan et pour lequel Gerry utilise un tiple ibérique élégant sur fond de bourdon.

Retour en Angleterre, John Dowland, 1597, ‘Can She Excuse My Wrongs’, une chanson courtoise, déjà enregistrée par Elvis Costello ou Sting, que Sarah interprète seule: vocals & guitar. C’est tellement beau que tu ressors le vinyle ‘Tabernakel’ que Jan Akkerman a sorti en 1973.

A peine 60 secondes: ‘New Oysters New’, un canon ostréicole, published in 1609.

‘So Much Rain’ du piano folk avec quelques intonations Janis Ian et ‘What Are We Going To Do’, à la Joni Mitchell à nouveau, hantent le Tin Pan Alley style.

Sarah solo pour le titletrack, ‘The Plum Tree and The Rose’, qui reprend la veine old British (love) folk songs.

Tasteful!

Le canon à six voix ‘In Gratitude I Sing’ clôture de belle manière cet album brillant.

Respect de l’héritage musical anglo-saxon, orchestration subtile et un timbre impeccable: la classe!

Translation below:
It was in 2008, during a concert at Toogenblik in Haren, that this writer first encountered the folk singer Sarah McQuaid, who enjoys dual Irish and American nationality.

At the time, she had just released a second album, I Will not Go Home ’Til Morning , the successor to When Two Lovers Meet , released in 1997.

In the spring 2012 appeared a third album to her credit: The Plum Tree and The Rose, produced by Irish singer/songwriter/guitarist Gerry O’Beirne, already known for his work as a guest musician with Alan Stivell, Luka Bloom, Sharon Shannon and as producer for Patrick Street, Fiona Joyce and Andy M Stewart.

As a sound engineer, Sarah engaged the services of bassist Trevor Hutchinson (Lúnasa, The Waterboys, Sharon Shannon ...).

Alongside these two eminences, we note the presence of Bill Blackmore (flugelhorn, trumpet) – Rod McVey (keyboards) – Rosie Shipley & Máire Breatnach (fiddle) – Noel Eccles & Liam Bradley (percussion) and Niamh Parsons, Tom Barry, Frances Hutchinson, Emer Ní Bhrádaigh guesting with Sarah on vocals.

All these musicians are familiar faces of traditional Celtic music.

The elegant and melancholic cover was designed by artist Mary Guinan, already responsible for the artwork on McQuaid’s previous albums.

The Plum Tree and The Rose contains thirteen tracks: nine originals, sometimes co-credited Sarah McQuaid/Gerry O’Beirne, a cover of the great ‘Solid Air’ by John Martyn, and three traditional Elizabethan ballads arranged by the pretty singer.

The delicate ballad ‘Lift You Up and Let You Fly’ opens the album. The theme of a mother’s watching the fruit of her womb fly away is not new, but Sarah’s alto, evocative of Sandy Denny or June Tabor, combined with the sober orchestration dominated by Bill Blackmore’s flugelhorn, grips the listener immediately.

The superb ‘Hardwick’s Lofty Towers’ recalls the Elizabethan-inspired folk of Pentangle, John Renbourn, Fairport Convention and Maddy Prior.

The duo of trumpet and jazz vocal on ‘Solid Air’, composed by John Martyn in honour of his friend Nick Drake, conquers all, sending chills down your spine.

Like ‘Hardwick’s Lofty Towers’, ‘Kenilworth’ is bathed in a mysterious and refined Tudor-scented atmosphere.

The majestic ‘In Derby Cathedral’ completes this 16th-century trilogy, drawing its inspiration from Bess of Hardwick, buried in the famous cathedral of Derbyshire. The track closes in liturgical polyphony. Beautiful!

Socially engaged, and vocally reminiscent of certain Joni Mitchell compositions, ‘The Sun Goes On Rising’ addresses, in Sarah’s own words, “the hard economic times we’ve all been going though of late.”

Cadenet, circa 1200, ‘S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada’, sung in Old Occitan and on which Gerry uses an elegant Iberian tiple against a background drone.

Back in England, John Dowland, 1597, ‘Can She Excuse My Wrongs’, a courtly love song previously recorded by Elvis Costello and Sting, is given a solo interpretation by Sarah on vocals and guitar. It is so beautiful that you have to go back to the LP Tabernakel released by Jan Akkerman in 1973.

Barely 60 seconds long: ‘New Oysters New’, a canon about oysters, published in 1609.

‘So Much Rain’, on folk piano with some intonations of Janis Ian, and ‘What Are We Going To Do’, once more à la Joni Mitchell, evoke the Tin Pan Alley style.

Sarah solo for the title track, ‘The Plum Tree and The Rose’, which delves once again into the vein of old British (love) folk songs. Tasteful!

The six-part canon ‘In Gratitude I Sing’ closes this brilliant album in beautiful style.

Respect for the Anglo-Saxon musical heritage, subtle orchestration and an impeccable sound: that’s class!

Michael Scott Cain

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree & The Rose
(Waterbug, 2012)

Sarah McQuaid is an Irish traditional singer who, on her new album The Plum Tree & The Rose, is singing primarily self-composed material. She wrote nine of the 12 songs on this CD and, oddly enough, her recently composed songs sound remarkably like traditional ones. You can easily imagine most of the tunes and lyrics being passed down from generation to generation, sung by hearths while the log fire blazes in the fireplace and the company passes around glasses of dark beer and sings along.

Yet at the same time, there is a schooled artistry to McQuaid's alto voice. Don't get me wrong, her approach to this material is not scholarly but it is far removed from the self-taught, down home and relaxed singing we associate with with traditional Irish music. Even if she keeps the training in a hand-woven basket, McQuaid has been trained -- not enough to hurt her singing, but enough to make it noticeable. It is a voice for the concert hall, not the pub. Consider this: she sings a self-composed song about the crashing economy but follows it with a Provencal troubadour song from 1200, then kicks into a 1609 advertisement for oysters, sung a cappella with two harmony voices. Then she moves on to one her new songs, written in Rogers and Hammerstein's or Cole Porter's verse-refrain form.

What I'm saying here is that even if her material mostly reflects and has its roots in the early traditional Irish music, Sarah McQuaid does not make background music. She demands a careful listening. Giving her that listening will pay off.

euVue

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree and The Rose

I first came across Sarah McQuaid last year with her wonderful album ‘I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning’.

Blessed with a voice that is both moving and subtle she put her stamp on some old standards and has dipped her toe into song writing with two songs of her own.

In a quantum leap forward  in that direction Sarah has written the majority of the songs on her own and jointly with Gerry O’Beirne on this sparkling and confident album.

Historical figures and locations pop up in a contemporary awareness for a singer songwriter at one with her world.

The centrepiece of this CD are  the songs “Hardwick’s Lofty Towers”, the title track and a magisterial “In Derby Cathedral”.

They are songs of questioning?

In Sarah’s words songs that deal with the big questions: “What are we here for? Do we continue to exist in any sense after we die”?

Heavy stuff but delivered with the lightest delicate touch.

This is life poetry of a high order delivered in an innovative and spellbinding manner which continues to seep deeper into one’s soul on repeat listens.

Beautifully arranged and played by Sarah’s regular collaborators  every song catches your attention immediately and holds you in its spell.

Bill Blackmore’s trumpet is magnificent particularly on Sarah’s heartfelt and brilliant version of John Martyn’s Nick Drake elegy “Solid Air”.

Sarah McQuaid continues to grow as an artist of distinction and appeal.

This album invites a large and discerning audience and I look forward to catching her live show when she comes up to our part of the world and investigates the magic and mystery of our heritage.

Johnny's Garden

Sarah McQuaid: The Plum Tree And The Rose
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Als het concept van een almachtig opperwezen mij ook maar enigermate geloofwaardig zou voorkomen, dan zou ik die schepper dankbaar zijn voor het feit dat hij mij met een brede muzikale smaak bedeeld heeft. Het palet bestrijkt blues, jazz, pop, klassiek, rock, wereldmuziek, punk en nog wat zijstraten. Daar staat dan weer tegenover dat het hebben van  enige vooringenomenheid hem evenzeer aan te wrijven zou vallen. Een van de vooroordelen waarmee ik al geruime tijd worstel is gericht tegen klassiek geschoeide folkmuziek. Te wollig naar mijn zin, te veel geneuzel ook, een zangstijl die mij huidirritatie bezorgt, om nog maar te zwijgen over de ongemakken die al die fiddles, uillean pipes en tin flutes me bezorgen.

Tot zover het vooroordeel. Want tijdens het veelvuldig luisteren naar The Plum Tree And The Rose, het derde album van de Amerikaans-Engelse engel Sarah McQuaid, verdween al dat voorbehoud razendsnel, om plaats te maken voor bewondering, geestdrift en – vooral – ontroering. Voor die laatste emotie zorgt een samenspel van factoren. Zo is er in de eerste plaats McQuaids gerijpte en ietwat sensuele stem, die in de diepere registers een toonkleur heeft die wat aan June Tabor doet denken. Ze zingt soepel, relaxed en met een bijna vanzelfsprekend gemak.

Daarnaast is er het betoverende gitaarspel van McQuaid, dat nooit te nadrukkelijk is, maar steeds speels en lyrisch. Een nummer als ‘Kenilworth’ wordt daardoor een nog groter genot om naar te luisteren. Maar de liedjes waarvan ik het meest genoten heb, zijn de songs waarin op ongewoon subtiele wijze gebruikgemaakt wordt van een bugel (‘Lift You Up And Let You Fly’), een trompet (Bill Blackmore benadert Chet Baker in de prachtige John Martyn-cover ‘Solid Air’ en in het al even bloedmooie ‘In Derby Cathedral’). Stuk voor stuk nummers om bij weg te zwijmelen en heel even het gevoel te hebben dat je los bent van de wereld.

Zo staan er trouwens wel meer op The Plum Tree And The Rose. ‘The Sun Goes On Rising’, een fluwelen song over de moeilijke economische tijden waarin we leven, zorgt ervoor dat de zon als het ware parelend door de kieren van de gordijnen binnenstroomt. En McQuaids bewerking van het ruim achthonderd jaar oude ‘S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada’, een lied van de Provençaalse troubadour Ellian du Cadenet, is mede dankzij het gebruik van een wonderlijk instrument als de shruti box een hypnotiserend pareltje. De bewust klein gehouden setting van het titelnummer – enkel een stem en een akoestische gitaar – zorgt ook na de tiende beluistering nog voor kippenvel. 

Bewondering, betovering en ontroering. De woorden staan er en ze staan er terecht. Elk nummer op dit wonderschone album rechtvaardigt het gebruik van superlatieven. Want ze omschrijven wat hart en ziel me ingeven als ik naar deze muziek luister.

Thanks to Renee Koopman for the translation below!
If the concept of an almighty deity were only slightly believable to me, I would be grateful to this creator for having endowed me with broad musical tastes. The range covers blues, jazz, pop, classical, rock, world music, punk and whatnot. At the same time one could accuse him of being somewhat prepossessed. One of the prejudices I have been struggling with for quite some time is classically rooted folk music. Much too naff for my taste, too precious as well, a singing style that irritates my skin, not to mention the ailments stemming from all those fiddles, uilleann pipes and tin whistles.

So much for prejudice. For after having listened many times to The Plum Tree and The Rose, the third album from American-English angel Sarah McQuaid, all bias disappeared swiftly to make way for admiration, joy and – mainly – emotion. That last emotion is a sum of many parts. The first factor is McQuaid’s ripe and somewhat sensual voice, which has a tone reminding me of June Tabor’s when at its deepest register. She sings with suppleness, relaxation and with almost nonchalant ease.

Then there is McQuaid’s enchanting guitar playing, never too emphatic but always playful and lyrical. A song like ‘Kenilworth’ becomes an even greater pleasure to listen to. But the songs that I enjoyed the most are those which make unusually subtle use of flugelhorn (‘Lift You Up And Let You Fly’) and trumpet (Bill Blackmore comes close to Chet Baker in the wonderful John Martyn cover ‘Solid Air’ and the gorgeous ‘In Derby Cathedral’). Every song is a song to daydream to and to let you forget the world for a while.

There are more songs like these on The Plum Tree and the Rose. ‘The Sun Goes On Rising’, a velvety song about the harsh economic times we live in, makes a pearly sun come peeping through the curtains. And McQuaid’s treatment of the 800 year old ‘S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada’, a song by the Provençal troubadour Elian du Cadenet, is – thanks to the use of a strange instrument called a shruti box – a gem. The deliberately sparse setting of the title track – just a voice and an acoustic guitar – brings forth goosebumps even on the tenth listen.

Admiration, fascination and emotion. The words are written and they are written rightly. Every song on this beautiful album justifies the use of superlatives. For they describe what my heart and soul are telling me when I listen to this music.

Folkforum.nl

SARAH MCQUAID BETOVERT MET EIGEN WERK
Sarah McQuaid - The Plum Tree and The Rose - Waterbug Records
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

In de loop der jaren ben ik de zangeres Sarah McQuaid steeds meer gaan waarderen, zowel om haar mooie donkergekleurde stem als om haar sprankelende gitaarspel. Hoewel haar muziek zonder meer in de traditie van de folk past, zoekt ze telkens een nieuwe invalshoek. Na haar vorige albums met werk uit de Ierse traditie en die van de Appalachen hoorde ze steeds vaker de vraag om meer eigen werk op cd te zetten en aan dat verzoek heeft ze nu gehoor gegeven met The Plum Tree and The Rose, een betoverende plaat waarop maar liefst 9 van de 13 stukken zelfgeschreven zijn.

Bij een huiskameroptreden vertelt ze me dat het haar wel onzeker maakte, maar dat is niet nodig, zo blijkt al als diverse bezoekers daar na afloop hun bewondering uitspreken voor Last Song (een eigen stuk van I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning, haar dochter en moeder leverden de inspiratie). De meeste stukken op The Plum Tree and The Rose zijn wat minder persoonlijk van inhoud, al blijft McQuaid wel dichtbij zichzelf in de overpeinzingen die worden verweven met verhalen. Drie liedjes zijn met elkaar verbonden door een filosofische inslag: titelnummer The Plum Tree and The Rose (over vergankelijkheid), Hardwick’s Lofty Towers (over de 17de-eeuwse zakenvrouw(!) Bess of Hardwick, met gastrollen voor Rosie Shipley & Máire Breatnach op viool) en een magisch In Derby Cathedral (met de gedachten die opkomen in de kathedraal waar deze vrouw begraven ligt). Met een ‘echo’ in de techniek ontstaat bij dit laatste nummer een soort ‘koor’-zang, maar Sarah McQuaid heeft ook een paar gastzangers uitgenodigd: op New Oysters New zingen Niamh Parsons en Tom Barry met haar mee, en dat duo wordt nog aangevuld met Gerry O’Beirne (ook co-auteur van enkele liedjes), Frances Hutchinson en Emer Ní Bhrádaigh op de lekker folky a cappella afsluiter In Gratitude I Sing.

En omdat een folk-album niet compleet is zonder opmerkingen over de huidige toestand van de mens en de wereld is er de single The Sun Goes On Rising, die gezien mag worden als een hart onder de riem voor wie het moeilijk heeft: Spring follows winter / Sun follows shower / Things will get better / If only I can hold that wolf at bay.

Bij het niet zelfgeschreven werk hoor ik een heel fijne 13de eeuwse Provençaalse ‘alba’ (ochtendlied), S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada (in oud-Occitaans), dat met sruti (een soort harmonium) en tiple (een aan de gitaar verwant instrument) een mooie nostalgisch plechtige sfeer krijgt. Het gevoelige Solid Air (door John Martyn geschreven voor Nick Drake), dat live al een paar keer indruk op me maakte, is een prachtig eerbetoon geworden aan deze vernieuwer in de folk van de jaren ‘70. Bill Blackmore weet op trompet een intense emotie op te roepen die me doet denken aan het verhaal dat bij Martyn zelf soms de tranen over de wangen liepen bij zijn eigen optredens.

Net als de vorige twee albums is ook deze plaat opgenomen door Trevor Hutchinson en geproduceerd door Gerry O’Beirne. Hoewel er veel gasten meedoen, klinkt het heerlijk kaal en ingetogen. Sarah McQuaid legt haar ziel in de subtiele arrangementen, prachtig warme zang en helder gitaarspel, haar eigen werk doet al uitzien naar meer en dat maakt van The Plum Tree and The Rose een mooi geschenk voor de muziekliefhebber.

Thanks to Renee Koopman for the translation below!
SARAH MCQUAID ENCHANTS WITH HER ORIGINALS
Through the passing years I have come to appreciate the singer Sarah McQuaid more and more, both for her wonderful deep voice and for her sparkling guitar playing. Although her music can easily be situated in the folk tradition, she seeks out a new approach every time. Following on her previous albums featuring work from the Irish tradition and that of the Appalachians, recently she was requested to put more of her own work onto CD, and she has honoured this request with The Plum Tree and The Rose, an enchanting record including no less than 9 out of 13 pieces by her own hand.

She told me at a house concert that she felt unsure about it, but that isn’t necessary, as proven by several visitors who told me afterwards of their appreciation for Last Song (her original song from I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning; her mother and daughter were her inspiration). Most of the pieces on The Plum Tree and The Rose are somewhat less personal, although McQuaid stays true to herself in the reminiscences which are interspersed with stories. Three songs are connected by a philosophical theme: title track The Plum Tree and The Rose (about transience), Hardwick’s Lofty Towers (about the 17th century businesswoman (!) Bess of Hardwick, with guest appearances from Rosie Shipley and Maire Breatnach on violin), and the magical In Derby Cathedral (about the thoughts that come forth in the cathedral where this woman lies buried). A kind of choral singing is created with an “echo” technique in this last number, but Sarah McQuaid has also invited a couple of guest singers: on New Oysters New Niamh Parsons and Tom Barry sing along, and this duo is completed by Gerry O’Beirne (co-author of some of the songs), Frances Hutchinson and Emer Ni Bhradaigh on the catchy, folky a cappella closing number In Gratitude I Sing.

And because a folk album isn’t complete without remarks about the current state of human affairs and the world, there is the single The Sun Goes on Rising, which can be seen as a boost for those who are having a rough time: Spring follows winter / Sun follows shower / Things will get better / If only I can hold that wolf at bay.

Apart from self-penned work, I hear a very nice 13th century Provencal ‘alba’ (dawn song), S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada (in Old Occitan), which acquires a beautifully nostalgic solemn atmosphere through the use of a shruti box (a kind of harmonium) and a tiple (an instrument resembling a guitar). The sensitive Solid Air (written by John Martyn for Nick Drake), which had already impressed me live a couple of times, has become a wonderful tribute to this renewer of the 1970s folk. Bill Blackmore manages to create an intense emotion, which reminds me of the story that Martyn used to be in tears at his own performances of this song.

Like the last two albums, this one was recorded by Trevor Hutchinson and produced by Gerry O’Beirne. Although there are a lot of guest performers, it sounds lovely, sober and subdued. Sarah McQuaid puts her soul into the subtle arrangements, beautiful warm singing and clear guitar playing. Her own work makes one want more of the same, and makes The Plum Tree and The Rose a nice gift for the music lover.

Altcountryforum.nl

Sarah McQuaid – The Plum Tree And The Rose
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Van een enorme productiviteit kun je de folkzangeres Sarah McQuaid met een betoverend, licht hees en donker stemgeluid nauwelijks beschuldigen. Ze timmert al wat jaren aan de weg en is ook in Nederland goed bekend bij de folkliefhebbers. Wie de publicaties in de gaten heeft gehouden weet dat McQuaid vanaf zondag 4 maart onder meer een aantal optredens zal verzorgen in ons land. Alles wat ze tot dusver heeft gemaakt is zeker van een onwaarschijnlijk hoog niveau. Dat gold voor haar uit 1997 stammende debuut “When Two Lovers Meet” met hoofdzakelijk traditionale Ierse folksongs. Een album dat nog aan alles en bijna iedereen voorbij ging. Met de opvolger uit 2008 “I Won’t Go Home ‘Til Morning”, een eerbetoon aan de Appalachen folkcatalogus en opgedragen aan haar moeder kon volgens mij geen enkele geïnteresseerde in het Engelse folkgenre meer om Sarah McQuaid heen. Ik keek dan ook met grote belangstelling en heel veel ongeduld uit naar de derde plaat van de momenteel in Engeland woonachtige singer-songwriter met een dubbele Amerikaans-Ierse nationaliteit.

Het nieuwe album “The Plum Tree And The Rose”, uitgebracht via het klein onafhankelijk platenlabel Waterbug Records, is bijna onaards mooi te noemen. Gemaakt uit liefde voor de muziek zonder winstbejag. Een plaat die net als haar voorgangers veel meer te bieden heeft dan alleen haar warme alt. Voor de productie deed Sarah wederom beroep op Gerry O’Beirne, die tevens de Zuid-Amerikaanse tiple en de twaalf-snarige gitaar bespeelt. Een dergelijk productieklusje kan je Gerry wel toe vertrouwen. Naast Sarahs stemgeluid vormt haar akoestische gitaar het uitgangspunt, smaakvol en subtiel ingekleurd door gelouterde muzikanten onder wie Bill Blackmore ( flugelhoorn en trompet),Rod Mckey (toetsen), Trevor Hutchinseon (contrabas), Rosie Shipley (viool), Maire Breatnach (viool) en Noel Eccles (percussie). Ondanks deze groep mensen weten Sarah en producer Gerry het geluid op “The Plum Tree And The Rose” vrij kaal te houden, waardoor alle elementen in haar muziek slechts geaccentueerd worden.

Dit is muziek met diepgang – voor de verfijnde liefhebber het neusje van de zalm, waarop je sprakeloos ondergaat hoe alles op wonderbaarlijke wijze samenhangt. Sarah weet met haar stem precies de juiste toon te zetten en veel sfeer over te brengen.’Hoe vertel ik het je dat je me los moet laten’ vraagt McQuaid zich in een brief aan haar moeder af in het openingsnummer Lift You Up and Let You Fly. Een nummer waarop ze muzikaal wordt omringd door de warme klanken van de flugelhoorn. Uitzonderlijk mooi is het intiem en betoverend trompetspel van Bill Blackmore in Sarahs versie van het door John Martyn geschreven Solid Air. Over het doel van ons bestaan, fantasie of werkelijkheid over reïncarnatie en hoe alles om ons heen tot stand is gekomen markeert de trilogie aan liedjes Hardwick’s Lofty Towers, In Derby Cathedral en het titelnummer. Adembenemend is het in de volksmond ontstane liedje Can She Excuse My Wrongs, een DADGAD arrangement in S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada en het in canon gezongen middeleeuwse New Oysters New. So Much Rain verhaalt over de bespiegelingen van hartstocht en verloren liefdes. Het walsende What Are We Going To Do refereert aan de gouden tijden van Cole Porter en George Gershwin.

Sarah McQuaid is een zangeres, die eigenlijk wereldfaam verdient. Helaas geniet ze nog nauwelijks bekendheid buiten een kleine kring muziekfanaten en toegewijde critici. “The Plum Tree And The Rose” zal waarschijnlijk te intens zijn voor de argeloze luisteraar, maar een must voor de ware liefhebber. Als je er van houd is de impact direct enorm en de liefde voor deze muziek onvoorwaardelijk.

Thanks to Renee Koopman for the translation below!
You can hardly accuse folk singer Sarah McQuaid, who has an enchanting, slightly husky and deep voice, of an enormous productivity. She’s been around for years, and is well known to Dutch folk music lovers. Those who keep up with publications know that McQuaid shall perform a couple of times in our country from Sunday March 4th. Everything that she has produced so far has been of an unbelievable high quality. That was true for her 1997 debut “When Two Lovers Meet”, featuring mainly traditional Irish folk songs. An album that went unnoticed by all. With its successor of 2008, “I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning”, a tribute to Appalachian folk music and dedicated to her mother, it became impossible for anyone interested in the English folk genre to ignore Sarah McQuaid any longer. Therefore I waited with great interest and even greater impatience for the third record of this now England-based singer-songwriter with dual American-Irish nationality.

The new album “The Plum Tree and the Rose”, published through the small independent label Waterbug Records, could be called almost unearthly beautiful. Made out of love for music, without regard for profit. Like its predecessors, a record that has far more to offer than simply her warm alto voice. Sarah again asked Gerry O’Beirne, who also plays a South-American tiple and 12-string guitar, to produce it. You can trust Gerry with such a production job. Next to Sarah’s voice, her acoustic guitar is the starting point, tastefully and subtly coloured by accomplished musicians, amongst whom are Bill Blackmore (flugelhorn and trumpet), Rod McVey (keyboard), Trevor Hutchinson (double bass), Rosie Shipley (violin), Máire Breatnach (violin) and Noel Eccles (percussion). Despite this group of people, Sarah and producer Gerry manage to keep the sound on “The Plum Tree and the Rose” rather sparse, accentuating all the elements in her music.

This is music with depth – for the discriminating connoisseur the pick of the bunch, making you listen with bated breath to how everything comes together. Sarah knows exactly how to use her voice in order to strike the right tone and create an atmosphere. “How do I let you go,” Sarah asks in a letter to her daughter on the opening song Lift You Up and Let You Fly. In this song she is surrounded by the warm sounds of the flugelhorn. Exceptionally beautiful is the intimate and enchanting trumpet playing by Bill Blackmore in Sarah’s version of John Martyn’s Solid Air. The trilogy of Hardwick’s Lofty Towers, In Derby Cathedral and the title song all question the purpose of our existence, fantasy or reality about reincarnation and how everything around us came to be. Breathtaking are a DADGAD arrangement of the popular song Can She Excuse My Wrongs, S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada and the medieval New Oysters New, sung in canon. So Much Rain tells about reflections on passion and lost love. The waltzing What Are We Going To Do references the golden age of Cole Porter and George Gershwin. Sarah McQuaid is a songstress, who truly deserves world fame. Unfortunately she is hardly known outside a small circle of music fanatics and dedicated critics. “The Plum Tree and the Rose” will probably be too intense for the casual listener, but a must for the true music lover. If you like this, the impact will be immediate and enormous: love for this music without reservation.

Midwest Record

Waterbug
Sarah McQuaid/The Plum Tree and The Rose

Now living in England for quite some time, this former Chicago girl, a distant relative to Gamble Rogers, finally comes out with her third album and it gloriously sounds like something that would have come out of the Pentangle corral if they were all young people making music today. Ostensibly in the folkie/singer/songwriter bag, that's merely a cheap way to pigeon hole her at first blush. Low key but glorious and incendiary, the writing and performance keep you riveted throughout. Setting a gold standard for a ‘pure music' album, you didn't have to be a habitué of 70s college coffeehouses to get what's going on here. This is a lovely, mature work just waiting for anyone that's ready for it. Well done throughout.

Rootstime.be

Sarah McQuaid – The Plum Tree and The Rose
(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)

Nu woont ze met man en twee kinderen in Cornwall in het zuidwesten van Engeland, tenminste als ze niet onderweg is voor één van haar vele optredens in andere Europese landen. Maar folkzangeres en songschrijfster Sarah McQuaid heeft in haar leven al heel veel omzwervingen gemaakt sinds ze in Madrid werd geboren als vrucht van de liefde tussen een Spaanse vader en een Amerikaanse moeder. Haar jeugdjaren bracht ze door in Chicago, een deel van haar studies deed ze in de Franse stad Straatsburg en in 1994 verhuisde ze naar Ierland.

Het was in die Ierse periode in 1997 dat zij voor het eerst met eigen liedjes naar buiten kwam op haar debuutplaat “When Two Lovers Meet” waarmee ze vooral in Engeland succes kende, wat haar van Ierland naar het Engelse Cornwall deed verhuizen. “I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning” was haar tweede soloplaat in 2008, waarna ze onder de groepsnaam ‘Mama’ samen met haar blonde collega-zangeres Zoë in 2009 een album getiteld “Crow Coyote Buffalo” uitbracht.

Nu komt haar derde soloalbum “The Plum Tree And The Rose” op de markt met dertien nieuwe nummers die in een zeer traditionele folkstijl worden aangeboden. Sarah McQuaid heeft met haar warme altstem een typisch Ierse zangstem die uiterst geschikt is voor de nummers die op deze nieuwe cd te horen zijn.

Traditionele folksongs is natuurlijk meer een niche in de markt dan de veel gemakkelijker te verteren dagelijkse kost. Met deze cd wordt dan ook op een meerwaardezoekend publiek gemikt dat zijn tijd wil nemen om de schoonheid in dergelijke liedjes te ontdekken, ook als dit niet zomaar voor de hand ligt. “The Plum Tree And The Rose” is dan ook geen gemakkelijke plaat, maar wie van dergelijke rustgevende songs houdt zal er zeker zijn gading in vinden.

Van de 13 tracks zijn er 9 eigen composities van Sarah McQuaid, naast drie eigen interpretaties van traditionele volksliederen uit de 13e,16e en 17e eeuw. Daarnaast brengt zij - met enkel haar akoestische gitaar en de door Bill Blackmore bespeelde trompet als begeleiding - een mooie eigen versie van het nummer “Solid Air” dat John Martyn in 1973 componeerde als eerbetoon aan zijn vriend en singer-songwriter Nick Drake, die één jaartje later aan een overdosis overleed.

Van haar eigen composities noteerden we vooral “Lift You Up And Let You Fly” dat aan haar moeder wordt opgedragen, “In Derby Cathedral”, “Can She Excuse My Wrongs” en de rustgevende titelsong “The Plum Tree And The Rose”.

Als u zo’n meerwaardezoeker denkt te zijn, dan moet u dit album maar eens van wat naderbij gaan beluisteren en als het aangebodene u bevalt, dan kunt u meteen overgaan tot de aanschaf van deze nieuwe cd van Sarah McQuaid.

Thanks to Danny Guinan for the translation below!
Currently living with her husband and two children in Cornwall in the southwest of England - when she’s not away doing one of her many gigs around Europe - folksinger and songwriter Sarah McQuaid has been something of a wanderer since being born in Madrid to a Spanish father and an American mother. She grew up in Chicago and went to study in Strasbourg in France before deciding to settle in Ireland in 1994.

It was during this Irish period, in 1997, that she released her first self-penned songs on her debut album When Two Lovers Meet, which met with great success in England and resulted in her decision to move there to live in Cornwall. She released her second solo album I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning in 2008, followed by the album Crow Coyote Buffalo, recorded under the band name ‘Mama’ together with her blonde singing partner Zoë.

She has just released her third solo album The Plum Tree And The Rose, which features thirteen new tracks recorded in a very traditional folk style. An alto by nature, Sarah McQuaid’s warm voice is typically Irish and perfectly suited to the songs on her new album.

Traditional folk is, of course, much more of a niche market than what we normally get to hear on a daily basis. This CD is therefore aimed at a more discerning audience, one that is prepared to take the time needed to discover the hidden beauty in such songs. The Plum Tree And The Rose is not exactly what you would call an accessible record, but for fans of this kind of laid-back songs, the rewards are plentiful.

Nine of the thirteen tracks are Sarah’s own compositions and the others include interpretations of traditional folk songs from the 13th, 16th and 17th centuries. She also does a wonderful cover – accompanied only by acoustic guitar and Bill Blackmore on trumpet – of the song “Solid Air”, written by John Martyn in 1973 as an homage to his friend the singer-songwriter Nick Drake, who died a year later of an overdose.

The self-penned compositions that stand out, in our opinion, are “Lift You Up And Let You Fly”, which she dedicates to her daughter, “In Derby Cathedral”, “Can She Excuse My Wrongs” and the laid-back title track “The Plum Tree And The Rose”.

Those of you of a discerning nature really ought to have a good listen to this album and then, if you like what you hear, order Sarah McQuaid’s new CD straightaway.

Properganda

PropergandaReviewPlumTree

Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree And The Rose
Waterbug Records - WBG104
Sarah grew up in America where her musical career began early, touring with the Chicago Children’s Choir and subsequently became an active member of Dublin’s arts and music community between 94 and 2007. She’s an accomplished guitarist too with a DADGAD tutorial published, but now living in Cornwall, all of the above and more besides makes its way into The Plum Tree And The Rose, an album that is every bit as good as it is ambitious, striking and remarkable.

It sounds superb, recorded in Dublin by Gerry O’Beirne and Niamh Parsons is amongst the guests. Somehow, the CD manages to fit canon singing, rounds and catches (In Derby Cathedral, New Oysters New and In Gratitude I Sing), Elizabethan courtship and sexual frustration (Kenilworth, Can She Excuse My Wrongs), an alba or dawn song (S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada) and a daring version of John Martyn’s Solid Air into its 13 songs. The latter, presented as a duet with Bill Blackmore’s trumpet, is genuinely haunting. Best of all though is Hardwick’s Lofty Towers, a story song that leaves a lingering desire to find out more, it’s a great piece of writing. Oh! And she has one of those voices too. (Sigh!)

Songwriter's Monthly

Click here to read interview in Songwriter’s Monthly.

Surrey Comet

Click here to read an article about a forthcoming appearance at the Ram Folk Club that appeared in the Surrey Comet.

WVIA-FM - The Graham Weekly Album Review

Sarah McQuaid
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning

When you mention traditional folk music to audiences on this side of the Atlantic, people naturally think of American folk music. But there is, of course, a healthy folk music scene in the British Isles. Back in the 1960s, there was the rise of the English folk scene with groups like Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and the Pentangle which found audiences in the US. In recent decades, Celtic music from Ireland and Scotland has been enjoying considerable popularity. But there has not been a whole lot of mixing of folk from the America and the British Isles. This week's album is all about combining American and Celtic folk music from an artist whose life has embodied that transatlantic fusion. It's Sarah McQuaid, whose second CD is called I Won't Go Home 'til Morning.

The mixing of traditions comes naturally to the peripatetic, 43-year-old Ms. McQuaid, who was born in Madrid, Spain, grew up in Chicago, holds dual American and Irish citizenship, and is currently residing in the West of England. At age 11, she was touring nationally with the Chicago Children's Choir. At age 18, she spent a year in France studying philosophy at the University of Strasbourg, where she also did some performing.

Sarah McQuaid learned folk music from her mother, to whom she dedicates her CD, who sang her traditional Appalachian folk songs. Ms. McQuaid's mother was a Chicago native, who volunteered with the Quakers in poverty projects in Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia, and there learned of the music of Jean Ritchie, Peggy Seeger and others who helped to popularize the music of the region back in the traditional folk music boom of the late 1950s and 1960s. Later, Sarah became enchanted with Irish music, and lived and performed in Ireland from the mid 1990s until 2007. There she also served as a newspaper columnist on music and also wrote a tutorial book on Irish guitar technique.

But when her mother passed away in 2004, Ms. McQuaid began to revisit the songs her mother introduced her to, and the result is I Won't Go Home 'til Morning, a collection of well-annotated mostly-traditional American folk songs recorded in Ireland with Irish musicians. It's a delightful set that shows some of the transatlantic connections that have always existed, with many of the old American folk songs having their genesis in very old songs that came over from England and Ireland.

Ms. McQuaid is a fine guitarist, and her vocals evoke the classic English folk alto of people like Sandy Denny or June Tabor. The accompaniment on the CD is quite spare, mainly with Ms. McQuaid's guitar and a little bass or percussion. There are also some a cappella tracks and one instrumental. Joining her on the CD are Gerry O'Beirne on various string instruments, Trevor Hutchinson on bass, fiddle player Maire Breatnach, and vocalist and percussionist Liam Bradley, though rarely do more than one or two appear at the same time.

The CD leads off with an excellent example of Ms. McQuaid's transatlantic folk fusion, The Chickens They Are Crowing. The musical setting is very British Isles, with Ms. McQuaid's vocals evoking the style of June Tabor or Sandy Denny, in this decidedly American folk song, from which the CD's title comes.

One of the more distinctive tracks is West Virginia Boys, whose sole accompaniment is percussion that hints more at jazz or blues than traditional folk. Ms. McQuaid's liner notes talk about the different forms and variations the lyrics have taken.

Ms. McQuaid said that in college, she heard Rory Block, the folk and blues musician, play a concert and Ms. McQuaid said she was taken by Ms. Block's guitar style. One of the songs Ms. McQuaid remembered from that concert is Uncloudy Day, which she performs on the album, and then includes the results of her research into the song in her CD booklet.

There are a couple of original songs. One of them is Only an Emotion, a song inspired by the sadness of brought on by events in her life, and her realization that people are trying to cure the sadness, rather than letting it run its course. It doesn't make an attempt to sound like a traditional song.

In thinking about the Appalachian roots of the songs on this CD, Ms. McQuaid was inspired to take up a somewhat more contemporary song, Bobby Gentry's classic Southern musical tale, Ode to Billie Joe. It's a kind of odd man out on the CD, but it works well, in a kind of laid-back acoustic version of the song that is not too far from the original.

On the other hand, In the Pines is a classic traditional Appalachian song that dates back to the 1870s or so, in various versions. Ms. McQuaid's treatment here sounds more American than Celtic.

The more striking of the a cappella tracks is The Wagoner's Lad, another classic traditional piece -- one of the songs that Ms. McQuaid's late mother taught her.

The CD ends with an original composition, a kind of elegy to her mother, Last Song, in which she reminisces on being sung to sleep by the traditional songs.

Sarah McQuaid's second CD, I Won't Go Home 'til Morning -- her first one appeared back in 1997 -- was actually released late in 2008 in the UK, but apparently there is now an effort to bring her music to audiences here in the country where she grew up. It's an all-around fine album, that mixes good elements from American and British Isles folk. The musicianship is outstanding, Ms. McQuaid's vocals are impressive, and the CD is annotated like an old Folkways album of old -- a 24 page booklet with explanations of the sources of the songs, and sets of alternate lyrics from the different variations she has found.

We'll give the CD a grade A for audio quality. The recording has a warm intimate sound, there are minimal studio effects, and the dynamic range is much better than is typical for pop albums these days.

If you like both American and British Isles folk, but realized that it was hard to find something that effectively and tastefully mixes both, then Sarah McQuaid's I Won't Go Home 'til Morning may be just the ticket.

Leicester Bangs

Sarah McQuaid
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning
Cornish singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid (born in Madrid, raised in Chicago, studied in France, lived in Ireland) taps effortlessly into the spirit of Sandy Denny and Shirley Collins on her second solo album, the near faultless I Won’t Go Home ‘Til Morning. Fully aware of (and informed by) the folk music traditions of N. America and the Celts, there’s nothing pure about McQuaid’s method, but let’s not concern ourselves with minor stylistic details when we can steep ourselves in her warm vocals and engaging songs – a blend of self-penned material, traditional pieces and well chosen covers. To describe it as central heating for grown-ups might seem a little offhand, but have a listen to a couple of tracks on her MySpace page and you’ll understand.

Moors Magazine

Sarah McQuaid:
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning
(English translation appears below Nederlands original)

De Amerikaanse Sarah McQuaid doet in haar zang nog het meest denken aan de bijna vergeten Britse folkzangeres Bridget St John. Zelfde licht hese warme stem, zelfde ontspannen manier van zingen, zelfde repertoire van mooie, gevoelige liedjes, en vergelijkbare fraaie, ingetogen arrangementen. We laten hier twee fragmenten horen, van de enige liedjes op haar cd die ze zelf geschreven heeft. Verder zingt ze hier vooral traditionals, ook Amerikaanse als In The Pines, en een paar covers als Uncloudy Day en Bobbie Gentry's Ode to Billie Joe. Dat worden allemaal haar eigen intieme liedjes. Een bescheiden album, dat wat tijd nodig heeft om te kunnen groeien, maar dat is zeker de moeite waard. Het album werd overigens in Dublin opgenomen in de studio van Trevor Hutchinson, die ook meespeelt op dit album, dat daardoor ook een beetje een Ierse sfeer uitstraalt. Mooi album.

Thanks to Renee Koopman for the translation below!
American Sarah McQuaid reminds you most through her songs of the almost forgotten British folk singer Bridget St. John. The same slightly hoarse warm voice, the same relaxed way of singing, the same repertoire of pretty, sensitive songs, and comparable pleasing, unpretentious arrangements. We share two fragments, from the only songs on her CD written by herself. Apart from these she mostly sings traditional numbers, also American, like In The Pines, and a few covers, like Uncloudy Day and Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billy Joe. They all become her own intimate songs. A modest album, which needs some time to grow on you, but this is certainly worth the trouble. The album was recorded in Dublin in the studio of Trevor Hutchinson, who participates on this album, which acquires a bit of an Irish mood because of this. Beautiful album.

Johnny’s Garden

Sarah McQuaid:
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning
(English translation appears below Nederlands original. This review also appears on http://www.rootsville.be and http://www.luckydice.nl)

“You can’t have the one without the other” bezingt Sarah in haar eigen geschreven ‘Only An Emotion’. Sarah McQuaid is meesterlijk wanneer het gaat om iets wonderschoons neer te zetten, ook al komt dat voort uit verdriet. Haar 2de CD handelt zich om dit soort balansen. De balans die iedereen voor zichzelf tracht te vinden. ‘Last Song’ is eveneens door haar zelf geschreven, terwijl de overige nummers arrangementen van traditionals betreft. ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ van Bobbie Gentry behoort ook al bijna tot die classificatie. Sarah McQuaid hoort thuis tussen al die Britse singers & songwriters die kwalitatief mooi en nostalgische muziek maken. Muziek om bij weg te dromen, of om op een rustige ontspannen wijze van te genieten. Als dochter van een Spaanse vader, en Amerikaanse moeder is ze daarom een markante eend in de bijt, maar luisterend naar haar muziek niet een onwelkome verrassing.

Opgegroeid in Chicago, en woont na een aantal jaren in Ierland sinds kort op de plaats waar ze voegt met haar muzikale bagage. Het spirituele land van Bert Jansch, Dick Gaughan, maar ook Matha Tilston. Sarah heeft dit album opgedragen aan haar moeder Jane, die begin 2004 overleed. De keuze van de muziek op I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning is direct afgeleid van de liedjes die ze als kind samen met haar moeder zong. Geen wonder dus dat de verbinding tussen haar moeder, en de muziek duidelijk doorresoneert in de werkelijk adembenemende uitvoeringen. Uitzonderlijk mooi is het instrumentloos gezongen ‘Wondrous Love’. Aan dit album is veel zorg besteedt, en de liefde voor de rijke geschiedenis van de ten gehore gebrachte traditionals straalt van dit album. Deze muziek is bijna onaards te noemen. Ze maakt je onverbiddelijk los van de dagelijkse vulgariteiten zoals: concurrentie, reclame, winst en geldbejag. Verademend dus!

Thanks to Renee Koopman for the translation below!
“You can’t have the one without the other”, sings Sarah in her self-penned ‘Only An Emotion’. Sarah McQuaid is a master of evoking something achingly lovely, even if it evolves from sorrow. Her second CD is all about these kind of balancing acts. The balance all of us are trying to find for ourselves. She wrote ‘Last Song’ herself as well, whilst the rest of the songs are newly arranged traditionals. ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ by Bobbie Gentry is one of the latter. Sarah McQuaid is one of all those British singers and songwriters who produce beautiful and nostalgic quality music. Music to dream away to, or to enjoy whilst relaxing. As the daughter of a Spanish father and an American mother, she stands out in the herd and listening to her music is a very welcome surprise.

She grew up in Chicago, and now lives, after a couple of years in Ireland, in the place where she merges with her musical inheritance. The spiritual country of Bert Jansch, Dick Gaughan, but of Matha Tilston as well. Sarah has dedicated this album to her mother Jane, who died at the beginning of 2004. The musical choice of I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning has come directly from the songs she sang with her mother when she was a child. So it’s no surprise that the connection between her mother and the music resonates in the truly breathtaking renditions. Exceptionally beautiful is the a capella sung ‘Wondrous Love’. A lot of care has been taken with this album, and the love for the rich history of the chosen traditional tracks shines through. This music could almost be called unearthly. It remorselessly tears you loose from daily vulgarities like competition, commercials, profit and gain. A breath of fresh air!

Sing Out!

Sarah_McQuaid_2009_03_Sing_Out_Review

Sarah McQuaid
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning

Sarah McQuaid is certainly a cosmopolitan woman. She was born in Madrid, raised in Chicago, studied in Strasbourg, and lived for many years in Ireland before relocating to Cornwall in 2007. She is a master of the DADGAD guitar, and has written an acclaimed tutorial on the style. Her first CD, released 11 years ago, is a collection of traditional Irish music. I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning, the long awaited follow-up, is a return to her Appalachian roots. The recording, which features Sarah’s sparkling guitar and compelling alto voice, is reminiscent of Pentangle’s best efforts.

Producer Gerry O’Beirne joins in on guitar, tiple and ukulele, along with Rosie Shipley and Máire Breatnach, fiddle; Liam Bradley, percussion and vocals; and Trevor Hutchinson on double bass.

I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning opens with the tune that lends the title to the CD. ‘The Chickens They Are Crowing’ was learned from the singing of Peggy Seeger. It’s important to note that the liner notes are quite well researched, and crammed with wonderful stories of her first exposure to this special music. Up next is ‘West Virginia Boys’, all done up with swing percussion from Liam, which accompanies Sarah’s smoky vocals. Quite a different rendition, but it works. The listener is treated to Sarah’s distinctive guitar style with ‘Shady Grove/Cluck Old Hen.’ Gerry offers harp-like accompaniment on the 12-string guitar and tiple.

Most of the recording is comprised of traditional tunes, but Sarah offers two fine original songs. Both ‘Only An Emotion’ and ‘Last Song’ are dedicated to her mother, Jane Addams Guthrie, who introduced the young Sarah to the beauty of folk music and died in 2004. We can all feel fortunate that Sarah McQuaid took these early songs to heart, for she has produced a gentle and magical recording that I will return to time and again.

FolkWorld

Sarah McQuaid
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning
Own label, 2008
Sarah McQuaid was born in Spain, raised in Chicago and came back to Europe as an adult young woman. She spent 13 years in Ireland where she recorded her debut album with Irish traditional songs. 2007 she crossed the Irish Sea to live in her mother’s house in Cornwall. Her new album is dedicated to her departed mother and features eight Appalachian songs and tunes she used to sing with her mother Jane when she was a child, a jazzy Bobbie Gentry cover version and two self-crafted songs. Sarah sings and plays the guitar and has recorded the CD with a bunch of excellent guest musicians in Trevor Hutchinson’s studio in Dublin. Hutchinson (Lunasa) also plays double and electric bass. Irish songwriter Gerry O’Beirne (guitars, ukulele and producer), Liam Bradley from Beoga (percussion, vocals), Máire Breatnach (fiddle, viola) and Rosie Shipley (fiddle) complete the line-up.

The CD opens with the traditional soft ballad ‘The Chickens They Are Crowing’ and Sarah’s warm and mature voice. Her gifted singing is accompanied by the gentle sound of O’Beirne’s 12-string guitar, the Ebow and Shipley’s soft fiddle playing. ‘West Virginia Boys’, another traditional song, stands out with brilliant percussion playing and Sarah’s jazziest singing. ‘Shady Grove/Cluck Old Hen’ has been interpreted by McQuaid and O’Beirne as an instrumental set. Sarah learned ‘Wondrous Love’ from Jean Ritchie and sings it a capella together with Bradley and she brings forward the traditional ‘The Wagoner’s Lad’ solo with just some guitar chords. Finally ‘The Last Song’ is one of her two own songs, beautifully accompanied by Breatnach on viola and Hutchinson on double bass.

McQuaid is a brilliant singer and chose some beautiful songs for her album. The arrangements are simple but striking and the musicians accompany her singing perfectly. The style changes from a capella singing to guitar songs, from folk to jazz and from rhythmic to melancholic. For me this singer with both Irish and American citizenship is certainly a revelation and I’m sure her album will be a great success.

Revolver Magazine



Sarah McQuaid
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning
(English translation appears below Nederlands original)
(3 stars)

Het lijkt wel of oorsponkelijke folk uit het Amerikaanse Appalachen-gebergte helemaal ‘hot’ is, want na Diana Jones en onze eigen Inlaw Sisters laat ook Sarah McQuaid zich op haar nieuwe album door deze streek inspireren. Daar heeft ze trouwens een goede reden voor: ze groeide op in deze kale heuvels [sorry, I’m afraid it was actually Chicago –S.McQ.] en leerde als jong meisje van haar moeder de lokale volksdeuntjes. Ma overleed enkele jaren geleden en McQuaid houdt met traditionals als Shady Grove, Wondrous Love en In The Pines de nagedachtenis aan haar in ere. En dat doet ze op gepast ingetogen wijze, met spaarzame begleiding van bas, viool en haar eigen akoestische gitaar. Overigens gaat het hier niet alleen om in de volksmond ontstane liedjes, met Only An Emotion brengt de al jaren in Ierland [England! –S.McQ.] wonende McQuaid halverwege de plaat een zelfgeschreven groet aan haar moeder. En daar straalt zoveel warmte vanaf dat je er even stil van wordt.

Thanks to Renee Koopman for the translation below!
Original folk from the Appalachian region seems to be completely “hot”. After Diana Jones and our own Inlaw Sisters, now Sarah McQuaid too gets her inspiration from this region. She happens to have a very good reason for that: she grew up in these remote hills [sorry, I’m afraid it was actually Chicago –S.McQ.] and learned the local folk songs as a young girl from her mother. Ma died a few years ago, and McQuaid keeps her memory alive with traditional songs like ‘Shady Grove’, ‘Wondrous Love’ and ‘In The Pines’. She does this in a fittingly understated manner, with sparse accompaniment of bass, violin and her own acoustic guitar. There is more than just the traditional songs; with ‘Only An Emotion’, the Ireland [England! –S.McQ.] based McQuaid sends a greeting to her mother halfway through the recording. And this song projects so much warmth that it makes you go quiet for a spell.

FATEA Magazine

Sarah McQuaid
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning

It’s been a long while since I got up extremely early on a Sunday morning, before light even, curled up on the sofa with the old iPod, rested my head on a cushion and read through all the sleeve notes from start to finish including the lyrics, the comments, the personnel list and production credits, even where the artist might buy his or in this case her strings from. With Sarah McQuaid’s new album I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning, so portentous are the sleeve notes, printed in a handsomely packaged booklet, that it takes roughly the same time to read through the booklet as it does to listen to the songs included within, if you run ahead with the lyrics that is.

Such an intimate hour with Sarah McQuaid is a rewarding experience before breakfast on a Sunday morning. Reading accounts of where she first encountered these songs, from old recordings of Jean Richie and Joan Baez, or from books published by Cecil Sharpe or Alan Lomax, sidetracks me into thinking about where I might have first heard these songs myself. In all honesty, I don’t go that far back and I admit that my first encounters with many of these songs, would no doubt have been via Bert Jansch and Doc Watson vinyls; the focal point of my mis-spent youth.

Dedicated to Sarah’s late mother, the songs on the album were recorded partly for cathartic purposes, to exorcise the ghosts of grief that goes with coming to terms with a parent’s death – most of the songs they sang together when Sarah was young – and partly because since Sarah now lives in her mother’s house with her own family, the songs are probably as much a part of the fabric of the place as the walls and the floorboards.

The album’s title is taken from a line in the opening song ‘The Chicken’s They Are Crowing’, a song learned from a Peggy Seeger album entitled Folk Songs and Ballads, which a very young Sarah heard via her Mickey Mouse record player. These songs were learned at a very young age it would seem. Reminiscent of Nick Drake’s ‘Cello Song’, but with some ethereal vocal humming instead of the big violin, the song immediately invites us into Sarah McQuaid’s enchanting world.

The unexpected surprise on the album is a pretty faithful version of the old Bobbie Gentry classic ‘Ode To Billie Joe’, which maintains all that Southern back porch swamp ballad feel as well as once again conveying an air of mystery and ambiguity that we loved in the original.

‘In The Pines’ has weaved its way up through the history of folksong from the days of Cecil Sharpe’s travels through the Appalachians in the late 1800s, to Huddie Ledbetter fresh from the penitentiary, claiming the song as his own, and then even turning up unexpectedly as Kurt Cobain’s swansong under the guise of ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night’ in the last days of Nirvana. Sarah McQuaid manages to roll all these facets into one and provides a spellbinding reading, which sends “shivers”, especially when the cold winds blow.

With a couple of personal self-penned songs thrown into the brew, the touching ‘Only An Emotion’ and the aptly titled ‘Last Song’, which brings the album to a close with its familiar coda of “Froggy went a courtin’”, Sarah McQuaid provides us with a rare beauty of an album, which I imagine will be revisited on this reviewer’s iPod, time and again.

Rootstime

Sarah McQuaid
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning
(English translation appears below Nederlands original)

Sarah McQuaid werd geboren in Spanje, groeide op in Chicago met een dubbele Amerikaans-Ierse nationaliteit. Ze woonde in Ierland van 1994 tot 2007 en verhuisde onlangs naar het zuiden van Engeland, waar ze haar intrek nam in het huis waar haar ouders ooit woonden. Een paar maanden geleden was deze artieste nog te bewonderen in Toogenblik in Haren en verder maakte ze ook recent een tournee door Nederland. Haar debuutalbum When Two Lovers Meet verscheen in 1997 en bevatte vooral traditionele Ierse folksongs. Haar nieuwe plaat is volledig opgedragen aan haar Amerikaanse moeder, die enkele jaren geleden overleed. Muzikaal zoemt McQuaid vooral in op de ‘Appalachian Folk’, die haar wortels kent in de muziek die door de Schotse, Engelse en Ierse immigranten werd meegebracht naar het oosten van de Verenigde Staten. De traditionele songs op dit album leerde McQuaid van haar moeder, die net als zijzelf ook zong en gitaar speelde. Zo treffen we hier mooie versies aan van onder andere ‘In The Pines’ en ‘East Virginia’. McQuaid’s heldere, warme stem brengt de traditionals met een grote waardigheid. Soms klinkt er een zekere droefheid of melancholie in haar stem, maar ze laat zich nooit door haar emoties overmannen. Een paar keer zingt McQuaid volledig a capella, zoals in ‘The Wagoner’s Lad’ en ook dat is zondermeer indrukwekkend. Hier worden we echt stil van. De enige cover waarvan de auteur bekend is, is ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ van Bobby Gentry waarvan Sarah een slepende versie neerzet, die onder meer opgefleurd wordt door spaarzaam werk op de slide gitaar van Gerry O’Beirne. Twee nummers werden door McQuaid zelf geschreven. ‘Only An Emotion’ gaat over ‘droefenis’ en hoe deze door dokters als een ziekte wordt beschouwd die kost wat kost met pillen moet genezen worden. En in ‘Last Song’ verwijst Sarah een laatste keer naar haar moeder die toen ze nog kind was songs voor haar speelde, net voor het slapengaan. Nu McQuaid zelf jonge kinderen heeft, zet ze deze traditie voort als een liefdevolle nagedachtenis voor haar overleden moeder. I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning is een rustige, sfeervolle folkplaat van een artieste die vooral maturiteit en waardigheid uitstraalt. Zo moesten er meer zijn.

Thanks to Renee Koopman for the translation below!
Sarah McQuaid was born in Spain and grew up in Chicago with a double American-Irish nationality. She lived in Ireland from 1994 to 2007 and moved recently to the south of England, where she moved into the house where her parents had lived in the past. A few months ago this artist could be enjoyed in Toogenblik in Haren and she toured the Netherlands recently. Her debut album When Two Lovers Meet was released in 1997 and contained mostly traditional Irish folk songs. Her new recording is dedicated completely to her American mother, who passed away a few years ago. In her music McQuaid focuses on ‘Appalachian Folk’, which has its roots in the music brought to the east of The United States by Scottish, English and Irish immigrants. McQuaid was taught the traditional songs on this album by her mother, who – just like her – sang and played the guitar. Here we find beautiful versions of, amongst others, ‘In The Pines’ and ‘East Virginia’. McQuaid’s clear, warm voice conveys these traditional songs with a great dignity. Sometimes there is a certain sadness or melancholy in her voice, but she never lets the emotions run away with her. A few times McQuaid sings a cappella, as in ‘The Wagoner’s Lad’, which is absolutely awe-inspiring. This really stopped us in our tracks. The only well-known cover from a well-known author is ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ by Bobby Gentry, which Sarah turns into a slowly spun out version highlighted by a sparse slide guitar from Gerry O’Beirne. Sarah has written two songs herself. ‘Only An Emotion’ is about ‘Sadness’ and about how doctors consider this to be an illness to be cured at all cost by taking pills. And in ‘Last Song’ Sarah points for a last time to her mother, who played her bedtime songs when she was a child. Now that McQuaid is a mother of young children herself, she honours this tradition as a loving memorial to her late mother. I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning is a tranquil, atmospheric folk recording by an artist who projects, above all, maturity and dignity. There should be more like this.

Living Tradition

Sarah McQuaid
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning
SMQCD002

Sarah McQuaid’s might be a new name to a fair few but when next you’re at your computer, tap into YouTube, and there are some of the loveliest songs you’ll hear all year. Her press release for ‘Won’t Go Home’ contains the strapline “Appalachian album takes Cornwall-based Sarah back to her roots” but that doesn’t even begin to describe the sense of just-rightness, the yearning, alluring quality to her voice nailing the subtle sharpness of these 11 songs. At a time when people are buying fewer CDs, new converts needn’t fear credit card misery acquiring an avalanche of back catalogue either – this surprisingly, is just McQuaid’s second offering in 10 years.

Born in Madrid, the daughter of a Spanish father and American mother, raised in Chicago she spent many years in Ireland before bedding down in Penzance last year with her family. The album is dedicated to the memory of her mother, (“she had a lovely natural style of singing and playing guitar”) who, though she never performed professionally, was obviously a formative influence, acquainting Sarah with the music of Jean Ritchie, Peggy Seeger and other singers and collectors. Whilst describing herself as a singer-writer, there is enough Trad.arr. material here to engage the most ardent devotees of careworn women, relationship betrayal, and heavenly homes and if you’ve a penchant for exhaustive and scholarly booklet notes, you’ve got them – 24 pages in all!

From rolling-sky soundtracks (East Virginia) to the snow-soft poignancy of Last Song for her late mother, McQuaid displays an elegant inventiveness, complemented by the precision of her eloquent backing musicians. With voice and arrangement not unlike Judee Sill’s on J.K. Alwood’s Uncloudy Day alongside a cover of Ode To Billy Joe that rivals Bobbie Gentry’s sun-dappled, yet menacing ambience, there’s no doubting the breadth of vision in these performances. Her lyrical world may be vulnerable and bittersweet imbued with an ache of loneliness and candid personal reflections, but it’s accessible without being slight. Revealing an honest and undisguised emotion, the effect is of a natural, unselfconscious feel. Sarah McQuaid has poured her heart into this record – but it’s also firmly attached to her sleeve and this is Folk music in every sense. It’s that good.

fRoots

Sarah McQuaid:
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning (SMQCD002)

In this follow-up to her quietly sublime debut, McQuaid mines her American folk background for inspiration. Subtlety and poise rank among the hallmarks – a quiet, elegant reading of Bobbie Gentry’s Ode To Billie Joe, the subdued authority of Only An Emotion. An album that further defines McQuaid as an artist of restraint and subtlety.

Heaven

Sarah McQuaid
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning
(English translation appears below Nederlands original)
In de schaduw van de Appalachen
(4 stars)

Sarah McQuaids derde [second, actually! –S.McQ.] CD I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning is een eerbetoon aan de Appalachen folkcatalogus. Met producer Gerry O’Beirne, die tevens talrijke snaarinstrumenten bespeelt (o.a. 6- en 12-snarige akoustische gitaar, ukelele, National Steel slidegitaar) heeft dat een aantal prachtige folkliedjes opgeleverd. Sarahs mooie, volle stem in combinatie met haar ingetogen gitaarbegeleiding (ze is de auteur van het lesboek Irish DADGAD Guitar Book) is alleen al een streling voor het gehoor. Voeg daar elf van de mooiste folkliedjes uit de Appalachen aan toe, O’Beirne’s snarenpracht en een hier en daar opduikende vioolpartij en je hebt een formule die van de eerste tot de laatste minuut imponeert. Liedjes als opener ‘The Chickens They Are Crowing’, de Bobbie Gentry hit ‘Ode To Billie Joe’, de hymne ‘Wondrous Love’ en het a cappella gezongen ‘The Wagoner’s Lad’ rechtvaardigen alleen al de aanschaf van deze cd. U krijgt daar nog een flinke bonus bij in de vorm van de overige, prachtige liedjes. Standaardwerk!

Thanks to Renee Koopman for the translation below!
In the shadow of the Appalachians
(4 stars)

Sarah McQuaid’s third [second, actually! –S.McQ.] CD I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning is a tribute to the Appalachian folk catalogue. In co-operation with Gerry O’Beirne, who also plays numerous string instruments (amongst others 6- and 12-string acoustic guitar, ukulele, National Steel slide guitar), this has produced a few beautiful folk songs. Sarah’s wonderful, full voice in combination with her subdued guitar playing (she’s the author of the Irish DADGAD Guitar Book) alone, is a caress to the ear. Add eleven of the most wonderful folk songs of the Appalachians, O’Beirne’s string-beauty and the occasional emerging violin and you have a combination that impresses from the first to the last minute. Such songs as opening song ‘The Chickens They Are Crowing’, the Bobby Gentry hit ‘Ode to Billie Joe’, the hymn ‘Wondrous Love’ and the a cappella sung ‘The Wagoner’s Lad’ alone justify the purchase of this CD. You get a large bonus in the form of the other, beautiful, songs. A signature work!

Spiral Earth

I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning
Sarah McQuaid

Sarah McQuaid has led a peripatetic life, having been born in Spain and raised in Chicago. Subsequently, after a thirteen year spell in Ireland, she now lives with her husband and two children in the home formerly occupied by her parents, near Penzance, Cornwall. How has this affected her music? Well, her previous release, When Two Lovers Meet, was an exploration of all things Irish, whereas this new album has found most of its inspiration from the Appalachian region of America, her mother’s favourite music.

Sarah has previously explained that it was her mother who introduced her to folk music and all the songs on this album have a particular emotional connection to her and their relationship. Of course, purely musically this is a perfectly logical move in one sense, as these songs and instrumentals are mostly based upon anglo-celtic folk origins.

Having run workshops for the guitar and written a tuition book on the subject Sarah certainly isn’t a slouch on six strings. And when coupled with a voice that has been described as ‘matured cognac’ she has all the fundamentals for performance firmly in place.

This material is usually treated to a rustic approach, sort of sparse and dusty, however, Sarah’s angle is different, teasing out the warmly embracing hymn-like qualities of the music, which are in line with her original motivation to record these songs. Her singing has shades of Baez minus the operatic warble and Gillian Welch without so much Nashville twang. It’s perfect for the reading of Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode To Billie Joe’, ‘In The Pines’ and ‘West Virginia Boys’. Whereas ‘Shady Grove’ is just fine as an instrumental.

Sarah has included two self-penned numbers. The first, ‘Only An Emotion’, she describes as ‘a song in defence of sadness’ and the flippancy of comments to ‘cheer up’. The second, ‘Last Song’, is a deeply personal ode to her mother and daughter who never had the chance to meet each other.

I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning illustrates the cyclical nature of life with piercing clarity. It’s highly appropriate that these songs are full of detail regarding two of the mainstays of our existence – food and love. It makes for a moving tribute to her mother and a unique evocation of the great Appalachian songbook.

Taplas

Sarah McQuaid
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning

One look at the track listing and I started to feel happy. The bulk of the songs are of the kind that got me into this music in the first place and which I still love half a century later. Songs like ‘Wagoner’s Lad’, ‘Wondrous Love’, ‘In The Pines’ and ‘The Chickens They Are Crowing’ are a few of the delights to be heard here.

The titles may be familiar but the songs get a personal treatment from Ms McQuaid, which is as it should be. ‘Chickens’ for instance gets a lovely, wistful treatment backed by a gently supportive guitar, joined later by fiddle, 12-string and percussion to take the tune out as an instrumental. ‘Shady Grove’ and ‘Cluck Old Hen’, two tunes that exemplify Appalachian music, are led by Sarah’s guitar, along with Gerry O’Beirne’s guitars and tiple, after which the changes are rung once again with a performance of ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ that would gain praise from Bobbie Gentry herself.

There’s no need to be an Appalachian song lover to enjoy McQuaid’s velvet voice and all around musicality, it speaks for itself.

The Irish Times

Sarah McQuaid
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning
EMD ***

The benefits of reflection are evident on Sarah McQuaid’s second album. Here she shifts her focus from Irish traditional to the Appalachian music beloved of her late mother. McQuaid’s voice has evolved in texture as well, and she inhabits Loretta Lynn’s In the Pines with an ease that reflects her lifelong acquaintance with the songs of the high country. Her cover of Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe is particularly elegiac, the spare arrangements revealing the full impact of the winding storyline. Her own songwriting is beautifully spare, and Only an Emotion casts a weary eye on the embarrassment with which society deals with grief these days. Producer Trevor Hutchinson and guitarist Gerry O’Beirne bring a muted, perfectly pitched presence to what is a melancholy but somehow celebratory collection.

www.sarahmcquaid.com

Download tracks: The Wagoner’s Lad, In the Pines

Le Blog des critiques de concerts

Click here to read a review by Michel Preumont, in the grand French – sorry, Belgian! – manner, of my gig at Toogenblik, Brussels, in November 2008. And we thought they only liked beer and chocolate ...

Americana UK

Sarah McQuaid
I Won't Go Home 'Til Morning

Beautiful Collection of Appalachian Folk Songs
Sarah McQuaid makes a return eleven years after the original release of her debut album "When Two Lovers Meet". While this debut was steeped in traditional Irish music, her follow up "I Won't Go Home 'Til Morning" sees her revisit some of the Southern Appalachian folk songs that she learned during her childhood. The album is lovingly dedicated to the memory of her mother who taught some of these songs to McQuaid but sadly passed away in 2004.

There is plenty of evidence of Sarah McQuaid's exceptional guitar playing throughout the album, especially on the instrumental "Shady Grove/Cluck Old Hen". Elsewhere on the album it is McQuaid's rich warm voice that comes to the fore, namely on the two acapella tracks "Wondrous Love" and "The Wagoner's Lad". There are also very good versions of Leadbelly's "In The Pines", Bobbie Gentry's "Ode To Billie Joe" and the wondrously cheeky "West Virginia Boys".

The CD comes with a wonderfully presented 24-page booklet which delves into the detailed histories and the backgrounds of the songs and is a fascinating read in itself.

There are two original tracks on the album which sit very nicely among the traditional songs. "Only An Emotion" is a lovely song about dealing with grief while realising that it is a natural way to feel and "Last Song" which is about the singing of songs before bedtime by mother to daughter, a tradition that has been passed on through the generations.

"I Won't Go Home 'Til Morning" is one of those rare things, a very lovely personal album but also an incredibly good introduction to Appalachian folk music. Highly Recommended.

Reviewer's Rating: 9 out of 10

Cornwall Today

Click here to read a feature on me that appeared in Cornwall Today magazine (www.cornwalltoday.co.uk).

NetRhythms

Sarah McQuaid - I Won't Go Home 'Til Morning (Own Label)
You might recall that last year, Sarah managed belatedly to re-release her fine debut disc, 1997's When Two Lovers Meet, to be greeted with even wider acclaim than on its first appearance, for its timeless properties: the gently sensuous singing, quiet lyricism and tasteful arrangements, which I felt had a certain kinship with the output of Niamh Parsons. Hardly surprising, given the time Sarah had spent in Ireland, immersing herself in its cultural heritage. Now safely Cornwall-based, however, in her (American) mother's former home, Sarah has taken stock and decided to revisit the Southern Appalachian songs and tunes that she learned during her childhood, to many of which she had been introduced by her mother. It's clear from her quietly expressive and supremely affecting performances that these songs have powerful emotional resonances for Sarah, and on this new CD she takes us on a cathartic spiritual journey through this material. It's a lovingly produced (and incidentally, beautifully packaged) release, containing several standout tracks and not a weak link anywhere in earshot. Sarah leads off the CD with a marvellously atmospheric and idiomatic The Chickens They Are Crowing (Peggy Seeger's seminal 1958 recording of which she wore out on her Mickey Mouse record-player!), following this with a delicious rendition of West Virginia Boys (with deftly cheeky percussion accompaniment from Liam Bradley) and the disc's sole instrumental cut, a version of Shady Grove backed by Gerry O'Beirne on tiple and guitars. Although Sarah openly admits her cover of Ode To Billie Joe can't hope to match Bobbie G's original, it's a pretty authentic stab, as is her attempt at emulating Rory Block's muscular treatment of J.K. Alwood's Uncloudy Day. The disc's two acappella tracks provide definite highlights: there's a well-turned rendition of a song Sarah had learned directly from her mother, a North Carolina variant of The Wagoner's Lad, but even finer is her spellbinding vocal duet with Liam Bradley on the sacred harp hymn Wondrous Love that forms the disc's centrepiece. It's also impossible to fault Sarah's well-judged take on East Virginia (based on the 1960 Joan Baez recording of Jean Ritchie's version), which benefits additionally from Máire Breatnach's wonderful guest fiddle contribution. Máire also appears on Only An Emotion, the first of two original songs by Sarah that complete the disc's tasty menu; the second of these, appropriately entitled Last Song, closes the disc in affectionate childhood reminiscence mode. This is a truly lovely record: it proves a thoroughly delightful listening experience that arises completely naturally out of a deeply satisfying personal artistic statement.

Hot Press

Sarah McQuaid I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning ****
Irish-American songwriter Sarah McQuaid’s follow-up to her much-vaunted debut album When Two Lovers Meet brings a sharp shift in focus with an intriguing collection of old-time Appalachian songs, a couple of originals, plus a stirring version of Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode To Billie Joe’.

I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning was inspired by the death of McQuaid’s mother, prompting her to re-explore her childhood roots via such works as the title track, ‘East Virginia’ and the minstrel song ‘West Virginia Boys’. The instrumental ‘Shady Grove’ showcases her subtle guitar skills, and her enchanting take on ‘In The Pines’ will surprise those who might only know the song from Nirvana’s version. But the depth and warmth of McQuaid’s voice is best sampled on the a cappella ‘The Wagoner’s Lad’, while the hymn ‘Wondrous Love’ is truly spine-tingling. She’s written ‘Only An Emotion’ to say it’s ok to feel down, and ‘Last Song’ is a touching tribute to both her mother and her own daughter.

The package includes a generous illustrated booklet giving background info on the songs. So you get a touching album from a genuine artist, and history lessons to boot.

FATEA Magazine

Sarah McQuaid I Won't Go Home 'Til Morning
Sarah McQuaid dedicates "I Won't Go Home 'Til Morning" to her late mother. It's an album that feels like a journey along her musical roots, most of the songs coming from a combination of the Americana trail that goes through the Appalachians and McQuaid's own pen, including "Last Song", the ultimate track of tribute and redemption, also hinting at her more Celtic roots. Those taken from the American songbook are traditional pieces that Sarah arranges well, the exception being "Ode To Billie Joe" which is performed well, but seems to sit outside of the canon.

Haverford Magazine

In the spring of 2008, my alma mater contacted me to request that I contribute an article to their ongoing "Roads Taken and Not Taken" series. The text follows; you can also read it online (with photo!) here. Roads Taken & Not Taken - Sarah (Allen) McQuaid ’87 From magazine editor to folk musician living in Cornwall, England, find out about Sarah's journey -- including a performance on "The View". Our latest first-person account of life after graduation.

Virtually every important decision I’ve taken in my life has come about more or less by accident, and the decision to attend Haverford was no exception.

I’d already visited several colleges as a prospective student, feeling increasingly lost, invisible and uneasy. Not so at Haverford: there, people bent over backwards to make me feel welcome. One particularly friendly and enthusiastic group of freshmen practically frog-marched me into Paul Desjardins’ Philosophy 101 class, and when I came out again an hour later, I was determined not only to go to Haverford but to major in philosophy.

Which I did, and it’s a decision I’ve never regretted. What I do regret is that I didn’t take my studies further. Dick Bernstein had even offered to help me expand my senior thesis into a book, and to this day I’m still kicking myself for letting such an incredible opportunity slip by; of all the stupid things I’ve done in my life, that’s the one I’d most like to undo.

But I was young and foolish, as the song goes, and all I wanted was to get out of academia and into the “real world”. I’d met a woman at a party who told me that she was leaving her job at a music shop in Philadelphia. Her soon-to-be-former boss was there, too – did I want to meet him?

So it was that I spent the next seven years working in Vintage Instruments, an Aladdin’s cave of a place that sold fine violins and other old and rare instrument: 18th century flutes, Martin and Gibson guitars, theremins and sousaphones, nyckelharpas and chittarones.

I’d spent my junior year abroad at the University of Strasbourg, struggling though French translations of Hegel and Wittgenstein while singing and playing guitar with an Irish band whose members I’d met at, you guessed it, a party.

The banjo player in that band became my first husband, and while the marriage eventually foundered, my love affair with folk and traditional music didn’t. By the time Noel and I split up, we’d moved to Ireland. I took Irish citizenship and stayed there for thirteen years.

I spent eleven of those years working as a magazine editor, a job I fell into by accident and eventually left when I couldn’t stand it any more. I decided to try playing music for a living – and to my utter astonishment, it’s been more successful than I could ever have envisaged.

Last year, I moved with my husband Feargal (another Irishman!) and our two children to Cornwall, in the southwest of England. My mother had died three years previously, and my stepfather, unable to manage on his own, made us an offer we couldn’t refuse whereby he would renovate an outbuilding into a cottage for himself and hand the main house over to us.

We’re living in a beautiful place, just a few miles from Land’s End, and now I’m very excited about a new project I’m working on with another singer/songwriter I’ve met locally. I still play a guitar I bought from Vintage Instruments while working there, the payments coming out of my wages each month. My experience as a journalist comes in handy for writing press releases and newsletters, and philosophy continues to dominate my thinking and my reading.

So in a way it all makes sense...but there was no master plan, and still isn’t. I’ve no idea what the next ten or twenty years will bring. The one thing I’m certain of is that whatever it is, it’s the last thing I could imagine at the moment.

Sarah McQuaid ’87 lives with her husband and two children in Cornwall, in the southwest of England.

JMI (The Journal Of Music In Ireland)

Sarah McQuaid Ballina Arts Centre, Co. Mayo 27 March 2008
While walking around in the rain looking for the Ballina Arts Centre, I began to think that maybe I was in the wrong town. Nobody could give me directions: to Supermacs yes, but an arts centre? My impression was that these residents didn’t seem to know what they had. Somebody or something was not engaging them; not properly getting their attention.

The Ballina Arts Centre occupies a pleasant, but very modest, setting, with one room serving as both a gallery and an events space. In this minimalised setting, and to an audience of little over twenty people, Sarah McQuaid held sway with no more than her guitar, voice and smile – no mean feat in a situation where every audience member is a distinct face and each hand clap is noticeable for its percussive timbre. McQuaid comes across as an experienced, confident musician and she imbues the songs with her own, definitive mark. Whether an a-cappella version of ‘The Parting Glass’ or an unusually subdued version of ‘The Holy Ground (Once More)’, one is convinced that here is a woman singing with her own voice and listening with her own ears. This assured individuality carried over into her precise, measured guitar playing on a guitar which matches her voice’s bel canto persuasion. McQuaid’s voice is indeed warm, mature and a connoisseur’s delight.

But, as rich and palatable as her music is, I did wish for a dash of bitters, more tonal discord to balance it out. There were flashes of blue-note-twists – hints of tearing – that came out in places, such as her version of Bobby Gentry’s ‘Ode to Billie Jo’ and her own recently-written ‘The Plum Tree and The Rose’, but I hoped for just a hint more. Some day I would like to hear McQuaid in a bigger musical setting, in which her smooth style could be accentuated, counter-parted and contrasted with other musical voices.

Whether that could happen on another similar night in Ballina is questionable: the limited concert space would challenge both audience and performers. Hopefully Ballina town and Mayo County Council’s proposed development of the arts centre will go ahead sooner rather than later. The planned 250-seat theatre must be regarded as essential infrastructure. Such a venue would allow the Ballina Arts Centre to expand the scope of its performance schedule, allow hard-working musicians such as Sarah McQuaid appropriate performance space, and allow the people of Ballina/North Mayo a better engagement with their cultural options on such cold Thursday nights.

The Living Tradition

Sarah McQuaid When Two Lovers Meet
Sarah McQuaid was born in Spain and raised in Chicago. She moved to Ireland in 1994. To my shame, Sarah’s was a new name to me. I say “to my shame” because this is a re-release of a CD first seeing the light of day in 1997.

Clearly it’s been my loss. She is a real talent. And she has come up with an album here that has perhaps “gracefulness” as its watchword. Everything is done with elegance and a certain economy of style and emotion. It ticks all the boxes for those of us wanting a quality album based largely on the Irish tradition.

She is joined on one track by Niamh Parsons on vocals, and throughout the album by the following talented bunch of musicians: Gerry O’Beirne (guitar and ukulele, and who also produced the CD); Trevor Hutchinson (double bass); John McSherry (whistle and pipes); Rod McVey (keyboards); Kevin Murphy (cello); Colm McCaughey (fiddle).

It is no coincidence that she chose to ask Niamh to contribute. There is much in Sarah’s delivery that reminds one of that celebrated Irish singer. Outstanding vocal control, almost to the point of a June Tabor.

But for me, I would prefer it if she let her guard drop a bit, and allow a bit of IMPERFECTION to enter her delivery. I am not asking for a ragged edge exactly: just a little something that marks her out as a human with feet of clay, rather than a singing goddess (which frankly is the image that her stunning vocal control portrayed for me). Using one’s voice as a pitch perfect musical instrument is one thing, but it does not always speak to the heart. Just the ear.

But that said, I must admit that it’s oh so nice on the ear. It is an album that can send you off into a deep reverie.

The liner notes too, also impress. Sarah penned them, and they interested me more than most I read these days. For instance, she’s surprisingly modest about the best track on the album, her self-penned Charlie’s Gone Home. The song’s construction made me think of a young Rosie Hardman at her best.

What I like most about the notes is the way she puts an idea in one’s head. Talking of When A Man’s In Love she says “I was struck by its sensuous lyrics (her hands so soft her breath so sweet/her tongue did gently glide … mmmm!”).

Golly, a song I had heard a million times suddenly took on a whole new aura for me! But Sarah, I would now call the lyrics decidedly SENSUAL rather than sensuous!

And I appreciated her observation re this particular track “I love the wide-open, lonely sound of the wooden and steel guitars together”. How grateful I am that she flagged that up for me. And her choice there of the word “lonely” is an inspired one.

Maverick Magazine

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet
*****

Ignore the title and be mesmerised by the quality of this Irish-roots music.

My initiation to this disc didn’t start well with the vomit-inducing name. But, never judge a CD by its ill-advised title, and it didn’t take me long to become completely addicted (about 30 seconds) to Sarah McQuaid’s velvet (albeit shaky) tones.

Born in Spain, McQuaid was raised in Chicago, discovered traditional music in France and now lives in County Wexford. Her voice sounds about as Spanish-American as Mary Black, however, and the sound here is incredibly authentic.

McQuaid has arranged a great-sounding disc of songs learned from her mother, heard on the radio and found in random books. Despite her lack of Irish heritage she has a good crack at Taim Cortha o Bheith im Aonar, singing unaccompanied in her lovely lilting deep tones. For the most part she accompanies herself on guitar to her own arrangements and occasionally with whistle, uilleann pipes and fiddles.

This isn’t just a disc of traditional covers; it’s very much the work of an Irish music devotee. Song histories are charted, academic collections credited and musical form is discussed, making it more than just a collection of songs by a lady with a lovely voice.

Mardles Magazine

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

Although this is a re-release from 1997, Sarah McQuaid is not a name that I’d come across before. She was born in Spain, grew up in Chicago, discovered Irish music as a student in Paris, and lived in Ireland from 1994 until earlier this year when she moved to Penzance. Her name may be familiar to some guitarists as the author of the Irish DADGAD guitar book ‘Playing & Backing Traditional Irish Music on Open-Tuned Guitar’ (Ossian Publications, Cork, 1995). However, soon after releasing this album the first time round, Sarah took a long break from the music scene. Now she’s back with a new album due for release early in 2008.
This debut album is a wonderful introduction to a fine singer and guitarist. It features traditional songs and tunes along with one original number. The mood is gentle, smooth and relaxing. Even numbers that you would expect to be upbeat and lively, like the ‘Chicago Reel’ from the playing of Willie Clancy and the traditional song ‘Johnny Lad’ become relatively calm and easy to listen to. Through it all, Sarah’s vocals and guitar playing are to the fore, but she has a prestigious collection of backing musicians including John McSherry on pipes and whistles, cellist Kevin Murphy, Rod McVey on keyboards, and singer Niamh Parsons. The title track, also known as ‘The Banks Of The Lee’, and the unaccompanied Táim Cortha ó Bheith im’ Aonar im’ Luí’ (similar to the broadside ballad Weary of Tumbling Alone) with verses sung alternately in Irish and English, are outstanding tracks on an album that would already be very good on its own. The album closes with a dazzling duet between Sarah and Niamh Parsons as they sing ‘The Parting Glass’ solo, in unison, and in harmony. When Two Lovers Meet is available in the UK through Proper Distribution. See sarahmcquaid.com for more details.

fRoots

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

Previously lauded in these pages on its original release, Sarah McQuaid’s debut album offers a masterclass in restraint and subtlety. Authoritative singing and quietly insistent arrangements make for a sumptuous whole – recommended.

Taplas



ON THE ROAD - AGAIN!
The re-release of an album originally published a decade ago has made singer/guitarist Sarah McQuaid an instant hit. Keith Hudson explores her background.

A NOMADIC lifestyle and earning a living as a professional musician tend to be inextricably linked and that certainly applies to Sarah McQuaid. The morning after we spoke she was due to leave her home near Penzance to go to London for an appearance at the Return to Camden Town Festival, returning the next day. But while the itinerant life is usually a consequence of career choice, in Sarah's case, it was the other way round.

"My mother was a world traveller," she says. "Before I was born she lived in France for three years, she lived in Greece for a year, she lived in Italy for a year and in Spain for five years."

Sarah was, in fact, born in Madrid, where she lived for the first two years of her life before her mother returned to the United States, setting up home in Chicago. By the time she was twelve she got her first taste of travelling in a musical context - as a member of the Chicago Children's Choir, which regularly undertook tours of up to ten days, both in the USA and Canada. Within a couple of years, she had also become a prolific songwriter and loved to entertain and amuse her classmates.

At the age of eighteen Sarah was on the move again - this time to study philosophy at the University of Strasbourg. She was also partly educated at Haverford College in Philadelphia, from which she obtained a High Honours BA in Philosophy. Haverford is a Quaker institution, run strictly to the Society of Friends' ethos.

She recalls that all decisions that needed making had to be based on consensus - voting was completely out of the question. This often meant that issues were sometimes discussed for several days before reaching resolution. The process of taking examinations followed a pattern that most of us would find unusual.

"If a student felt ready to take an exam," she explained, "he or she could simply ask for the paper and return her work within two hours. This meant you could do the exam sitting under a tree or wherever else one chose."

But it was during her spell in France that Sarah was bitten by the Irish music bug. Surprising, perhaps, as, despite the Irish diaspora, Strasbourg doesn't seem the kind of city to be a hotbed of Irish music - a view Sarah would share. Her solo performances in a folk club, though, attracted significant praise in the local press and she soon tracked down a band who were looking for a singer.

"I had to learn their repertoire very quickly," she says, "and learn to sing their songs in the same key as the male singer I replaced. It wasn't a particularly good band, but they had a lot of gigs lined up. Again the local press was full of praise, describing us as the best Irish band in eastern France. If the truth were known, we were, probably, the only Irish music band in eastern France."

The writer described them as a band made up of five people from five different countries - Ireland, France, Brittany, America and Texas, the latter being elevated in status because the writer was a Texan.

It was also during this period of her life that Sarah discovered the DADGAD open tuning style of guitar playing. She was later to write the seminal guitar tutor The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book, which The Irish Times described as "a godsend to aspiring traditional guitarists".

Sarah's own guitar style is, she says, influenced mainly by players she's heard on record. She lists Dick Gaughan, Arty McGlynn, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn as examples.

"Before going to France I had been doing some bluegrass playing and pretending to be Joni Mitchell in my bedroom," she quips. "I tried experimenting with open tuning and various other things. But, at that time, the sum total of my knowledge of Irish music was hearing a song by Mary Black on the radio and hearing some Kevin Burke, but I didn't know he was Irish.

"Up to that point, most of what I knew about music I had got from my mother. She was a folk singer and guitarist, though never professionally. She had a huge store of songs, some English, some Scottish and some American, but I didn't know which were which. She used to sing to me when I was going to bed at night and we'd sing together in the car. She was my introduction to folk music."

Although Sarah does write songs, it's a very occasional activity and she doesn't really think of herself as a songwriter. She recalls writing two in April this year, but reckons those were the first in about five years. She mentioned that she has an uncle who wrote the songs for a musical that was produced in Chicago and a cousin, who is four years older than her, who studied composition and now writes film music.

During her year in France, Sarah married one of the members of the band she had joined. She now confesses that this was a rather foolish decision. He did accompany her when she returned to the USA and again, in 1994, when she moved to Dublin, but the relationship was not to last.

The move to Ireland also brought about a gradual change in emphasis to Sarah's working life. She continued performing and release a first solo album, When Two Lovers Meet, but also began writing a weekly folk music column for the Evening Herald and contributing to Hot Press magazine. But, eventually, a full-tme job took her away from music - temporarily, at least.

"It was an irresistible offer," she says. "Initially, it was just a three month contract but, at the end of that, I was asked to stay on. The company I worked for published a wide range of magazines from the on-board magazine for Irish Ferries, various others for the Irish Tourist Board and even the Irish edition of Old Moore's Almanac. Some of the tourist stuff was interesting and gave me the chance to visit some nice places."

During this time, Sarah married Feargal Shiels, a horticulturist who used his skills as a therapeutic tool for people with learning difficulties. They had two children, in 2003 and 2005. But finding an affordable home that was suitable for two young children meant moving some sixty miles outside Dublin - giving Sarah an unenviable 120 mile daily commute to her office. Inevitably, the stress began to tell.

"I was often spending three hours on the road, as well as long days in the office. The kids were in a nursery eleven hours a day ad it became a pretty miserable existence," she says. "I found myself crying while driving to and from work and thinking there must be something better than this. I thought to myself what about that CD, what about the music? I started looking around for gigs and, to my amazement, I had no problem getting them."

When Two Lovers Meet originally came out in 1997, when releasing one's own album was still a comparative rarity, though Sarah did manage to get an Irish distribution deal with Gael Linn and, this year, with Proper Records for distribution in Britain.

"It's wonderfully democratic, in a way, that it's now so easy to release a CD. It's fantastic that a CD can be put out to the world. Anybody can do it. When I originally recorded my album, I didn't think there would be a market for it. You used not to be able to make a recording unless there was a market. It's great that it's no longer in the total control of record companies, but it's bad in the sense that reviewers, like myself, have to listen to so many albums that, previously, would never have seen the light of day. But, there's good stuff, too, that might have seemed too risky, in the past."

The album was recorded in Trevor Hutchinson's Dublin studio and produced by Gerry O'Beirne. Putting in guest appearances are, among others, John McSherry and her old friend Niamh Parsons.

"They are all people I had known and admired for a long time," she says. "Gerry is a particularly good producer and I get on with him so well. You know how it is, you sometimes meet people and you don't have to explain yourself. In no time, they nod and know what you are talking about. Especially, when you are talking about musical things. I could tell Gerry when I knew something was wrong and, even if I didn't know what was wrong, he could fix it, just like that. It's so good when someone is on the same wavelength."

Work has already begun on Sarah's second album. Provisionally titled I Won't Go Home 'Til Morning, it's scheduled for release early in 2008. Again it was recorded in Hutchinson's studio and again production is by O'Beirne. Guests for this album include, in addition to Hutchinson and O'Beirne, are percussionist Liam Bradley and Maire Breatnach on fiddle and viola. There's a change of focus, too. This new album features old timey American songs and tunes and is, in part, at least, a tribute to Sarah's mother, who died not so long ago.

"She was first taken ill when my son, the elder of the two, was just four months old [I must not have made myself clear at this point in the interview; my mother had actually been ill for some years, and she died when Eli was five months old – Sarah]. It was a difficult time and I thought about her a lot. That's why I wanted to record some of the songs she used to sing."

But Sarah hasn't abandoned Irish music. Much of her live repertoire is made of songs from the first album. Given her new place of residence, she's also interested in learning some Cornish songs and, maybe, even the language. At the moment, though, she's trying to learn a little Dutch, as she has a tour of Holland lined up and she's embarrassed about how well the Dutch speak English.

"I'm looking forward to hearing the new album as a finished piece of work," she says. "I had to leave it when I moved to England. It hasn't been mastered yet. Trevor's taking it to Holland to do that."

The death of Sarah's mother was the reason for the family's move to Cornwall. Sarah had wanted her stepfather to live with them in Ireland, but he was having none of that.

"Now that I know where he's living, I understand his reasons," she says. "We live in what was my parents' home and he lives in the cottage next door. It was a shed, but now provides both living accommodation and a studio for him to work in. He's an artist and sculptor."

Apart from the Dutch tour, Sarah also has a nine day trip to Scotland in February. The whole family is going on that trip, because, she tells me, she's never left the kids for that long. She also made it known that she'd like some dates in south Wales, as she still travels to Ireland, from time to time, via Pembroke. (Give her a ring - you won't be disappointed with her performance).

Irish Post

Click here or here to read an interview in the Irish Post that appeared ahead of my performance at the Return To Camden Town Festival in London.

Bristol Evening Post

Click here to read a review in the Bristol Evening Post of my gig at the Nova Scotia Folk Club. Unfortunately I had a dreadful chest infection that gave me vocal problems and sent me into coughing fits between songs, so it wasn't my best night by a long shot, but the reviewer wasn't too hard on me ...

NetRhythms

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

You can be easily forgiven for not having heard of Sarah... for this CD is a belated reissue of Sarah’s widely-acclaimed debut, which was first released on a purely limited basis in Ireland in 1997.

It’s a quiet, uniformly lyrical album, characterised by timeless, fine-toned, warm and gently sensuous singing and thoughtful, sparkling yet understated guitar work. The simple unadorned physical beauty of Sarah herself, as captured in the booklet’s photographic portraits, is mirrored by the spare beauty of the music on the disc: 47 minutes of pure delight, entirely embodying Sarah’s personal philosophy that “a soft approach can still be a source of joy, intensity, even wildness”. Indeed, the two lovers of the title could well be interpreted as vocal and instrumental performance, for their marriage is at once perfectly controlled and perfectly natural, both in conception and in execution.

The focus is always on Sarah’s singing or playing, and she’s blessed with unobtrusive and appealing settings which are a model of intelligence and sensitive restraint. In fact the overall feel of the album reminded me of the work of Niamh Parsons in that respect, and it came as no surprise to find her name among the credits (she duets with Sarah on her fabulous closing rendition of The Parting Glass, done to an unusual tune, a little reminiscent of Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood, which she learnt from the singing of Len Graham) along with piper John McSherry, bassist Trevor Hutchinson, cellist Kevin Murphy, fiddler Colm McGaughey, keyboard player Rod McVey and producer Gerry O’Beirne who pitches in with backing guitars and ukulele. The complement of the album is seven songs and three instrumental tracks, the latter rather surprisingly providing highlights of the set with richness in sparsity.

The songs include fetching variants of Sprig Of Thyme, the title track (also known as The Banks Of The Lee) and When A Man’s In Love, also one of Sarah's own compositions (Charlie’s Gone Home) which despite its “folkiness” still feels like the cuckoo in the nest (although it doesn’t compromise the mood of the album in any way). Sarah sings unaccompanied on just one song, the macaronic-form Táim Cortha Ó Bheith Im’ Aonar Im’ Luí. Finally, the good news is that Sarah’s just moved to Cornwall and plans to release a new CD next year. For the time being, though, this treasure of an album is now available easily in the UK through Proper Distribution and by the good auspices of Gael Linn.

Folknews Kernow

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

Love permeates this thoughtful CD. Sarah’s loving treatments, along with those of her small band of accompanists, add that special something to a glittering collection of songs and tunes. Sarah’s smooth voice is respectful, loving, and exactly right for the songs, which include a vivid version of Sprig of Thyme learned from her mother. As for her guitar she is obviously a master. Sarah lives in Penzance now so watch out for local appearances.

DugguP

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

Oh yes, it’s guitar fetish time… I was checking out the RTE Late Session site for the first time in ages and picked one of the shows at random, well not quite… I saw the word guitarist so that was where I decided to start.

Sarah McQuaid is a truly distinctive guitarist, her tone and technique remind me of early Bert Jansch and Tony McManus amongst others. She also has a really warm and interesting voice into the bargain. “When Two Lovers Meet” is just so understated and delicate that it just goes straight to the emotional jugular and shows cases both her guitar and vocals (the uillean pipes I am not so sure about).

“When Two Lovers Meet” was originally released in 1997 but shortly after Sarah decided to take a break, the album was re-released in Ireland in February 2007. It’s a good album. Make sure you have a listen to Johnny Lad, the way it swings and don’t miss King of the Fairies/The Blackbird, DADGAD tunings and what sounds like a large body Martin (D35?) [D-28, actually, but good guess! – Sarah] and this is so cool. I love the way a really talented guitarist can brighten the day.

I really really really like this music. I look forward to her new album and hope one of the festivals here in Australia will bring her out. Oh if you want to hear the radio show that started this and if you have Real Audio on your PC then stroll over to RTE Late Session -11th March 2007 and check it out. (Remember it’s a radio show so there are the news breaks and a few other interesting bits and pieces in the two hours as well).

The Munster Express

Click here to read a review in the Munster Express of my gig at the Bowery Bar in Waterford.

Evening Echo, Cork

Click here to read my answers to one of those infernal questionnaires ...

Galway Advertiser

Another infernal questionnaire! Click here to read it.

The Rough Guide To Irish Music

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

Sarah’s voice is both as warm as a turf fire and as rich as matured cognac. Enhanced by Gerry O’Beirne’s sparse, but atmospheric production, ‘When A Man’s In Love’ (a nineteenth-century ‘night-visiting’ song learned from Seán Corcoran) becomes a sensuous spine-tingler, while her guitar playing throughout should be a lesson to anyone unconvinced of the instrument’s role in traditional music. An astonishing debut by a unique talent.

Folk Roots

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

Sarah McQuaid has lived a pretty varied life thus far: born in Madrid and raised in Chicago before becoming caught by the Irish music bug and now living in Dublin. Music columnist and musician by turn, she delivers a sparse yet effective brand of traditional music laden with subtle inflections and unexpected nuances. When Two Lovers Meet is her debut solo album and she possesses a wispily deep voice and an accomplished guitar style. The presence of heavyweights including John McSherry, Niamh Parsons, and producer Gerry O’Beirne add to the palate, but the result is strongly individual and highly personalised, though not self-centred. Vocally the traditional Johnny Lad and the self-penned Charlie’s Gone Home find her lower register at its most comfortable while the opening Sprig Of Thyme wins through on arrangement points alone with its melancholic baroque undertones. Having written a traditional guitar tutor for session accompanists, her playing is sweet and subtle on The Tempest and King Of The Fairies. For a debut solo album, When Two Lovers Meet is both sparse and withdrawn by effect but it casts a quietly lingering spell.

Irish Music Net

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

I’m not exactly what you could call trad at heart. After all these years I couldn’t tell you the difference between a jig and a reel and as for differentiating between The Shannon Breeze and Roll Her On The Banks, well, I’d be as lost as a tourist in the Wicklow Hills without a map. Most of my trad intake is what we might call ambient trad, that element of trad that creeps into everyday existence. Riverdance trad. Titanic trad. Temple Bar trad. It goes in one ear and out the other. So to find myself not only liking but actually praising a trad disc, well, this comes as no little surprise to me. I guess my main reason for liking When Two Lovers Meet is twofold: the music comes from the lighter end of the trad spectrum; and McQuaid is a cosmopolitan woman and brings diverse influences to bear on the recording. The latter point. McQuaid was born in Spain but reared in Chicago. It was in France that she fell under the spell of trad and it is only in recent years that she fetched up here in Dublin. This varied upbringing has lent a slightly accented edge to McQuaid’s vocals, which are soft and almost dreamy. This cosmopolitan voice, with its associated approach to the treatment of the airs and tunes, has McQuaid walking along that border which blends the edges of trad into the edges of jazz. Here I’m particularly thinking of the tracks Johnny Lad and Charlie’s Gone Home. On these the sound comes close to that captured by trad/jazz fusionist Melanie O’Reilly on her Tír na Mára disc. Like O’Reilly, McQuaid acknowledges the assistance of the Traditional Music Archive in Merrion Square in the sourcing of the music on this disc and perhaps it is this willingness to seek out suitable and appropriate material that makes this album so pleasing.

As well as the vocals McQuaid also contributes her guitar playing talents to this disc. Some of you may know McQuaid’s name from her book, The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book. If her own playing can be taken as an advertisement for this book then I might just have to get my hands on it, buy a guitar and become a musician. That old Horslips sham rock favourite, King of the Fairies is wheeled out and given a new coat of paint, in a stripped down and – dare I say it? – almost jazzed up version. But jazz only in the fashion of old jazz, classical jazz, where the player goes off and paints curlicues and curls around a recognisable tune. This McQuaid does gently, not in a show-off look-at-me kind of fashion, more in a style that is actually sympathetic to the tune. This magic is also repeated later on the disc, on The Chicago Reel/The Green Fields of Glentown, the former previously recorded by Willie Clancy and the latter a Tommy Peoples tune.

Though self-financed and output by McQuaid herself, the disc features a host of luminous guests – Trevor Hutchinson (in whose Marguerite Studios the disc was recorded), Gerry O’Beirne (who produced, as well as contributing ukelele and accompanying guitar), John McSherry, Rod McVey and Niamh Parsons (one of the most underrated vocalists in this country today). It is to the individual credit of all involved that none steal the show and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its individual parts.

Sean-nós star Iarla Ó Lionaird is credited profusely for his assistance, particularly on the track Táim Cortha ó Bheith im’ Aonar im’ Luí, which has verses sung both as gaeilge agus as bearla. It is from another Cuil Aodh native, Peadar Ó Riada, that this disc draws some inspiration, particularly in its spartan approach to the musical arrangements, with lots of quiet moments in which the music can live and breathe.

For my money this was a beautiful disc. I can’t look at it and tell you whether McQuaid’s reading of tunes like Sprig of Thyme or The Tempest are true or fair, but I can tell you I enjoyed them, and at the end of the day, that is all I am looking for in a recording.

Irish Music Magazine

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

Sarah is well known as a music journalist, and author (The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book). Now is it a case of poacher turned gamekeeper, always a dangerous move in the music business? How has she made the switch from pen to plectrum?

Sarah is joined by trad luminaries Trevor Hutchinson, Gerry O’Beirne, John McSherry and Niamh Parsons – some backing band eh?

There are ten tracks, with eight songs including Táim Cortha Ó Bheith Im’ Aonar Im’ Luí as well as more widely known songs in English (Sprig of Thyme, When a Man’s in Love and The Parting Glass).

She brings to the recording a gentle voice and soothing guitar style, perhaps too laid-back on the dance tunes (maybe they would have been better capoed up the neck about three frets – they are bright but they don’t really sparkle, the low tuning is the problem, not her style).

However, most of the CD is devoted to songs, and boy, hasn’t Sarah got a good voice – rich, deep, mature. Shown at its best on the jazz-influenced Johnny Lad, great movement between octaves and stylish use of breathing add a sexy dynamic.

One for a romantic evening in, listen to it with a hot whiskey and a peat fire – heaven!”

The Irish Times

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

This is a thoughtful, skilful and occasionally sombre collection of mostly traditional material. Sarah McQuaid has clearly been smitten by the attractions of Irish traditional music. Born in Spain, raised in Chicago and now living in this country, McQuaid is an accomplished guitarist whose rich style sits well with the intricacies of traditional music. She has done her homework in other areas as well, notably in her research and particularly in her vocal style. Producer Gerry O’Beirne, no slouch himself in the guitarist ranks, serves McQuaid well in her stated aim of giving the music room to breathe, while other guests like Niamh Parsons (for a fine female version of The Parting Glass), Trevor Hutchinson and John McSherry help make this a debut to note.

Hot Press

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

As an artist, Sarah McQuaid – a Spanish-born, American-reared and Irish-based singer/songwriter – has several vital attributes. People who are familiar with Sarah’s writing in Hot Press will know that she is both knowledgeable and passionate about folk and traditional music. Her intelligence is matched by a warm, velvet-tinged voice and a distinctive acoustic guitar style which mark her out as a significant talent.

When Two Lovers Meet, her independently released debut, features her own arrangements on a selection of traditional songs and tunes, some familiar, others more obscure. Sparsely produced, generally with a minimum of instrumental adornment, the tunes live and breathe naturally, while the vocals – cloaked in just the right amount of reverb – complete the overall effect, which is wistful and melancholic.

The opening track, ‘Sprig Of Thyme’, a mournful ballad with exquisite harmonies, sets the tone perfectly. Gerry O’Beirne’s guitar, meanwhile, lends a lonesome Appalachian flavour to the sensual ‘When A Man’s In Love’.

The sprightly melody of ‘Johnny Lad’ is superbly enhanced by John McSherry’s whistle, but it is McQuaid’s vocals which stand out. ‘Charlie’s Gone Home’, the sole McQuaid original on the album, is an impressively wrought and accessible folk song that suggests greater potential as a songwriter. Despite its length, the epic title track itself holds the attention, aided in no small way by a haunting uilleann pipe solo. The album closes with an unaccompanied version of ‘The Parting Glass’ superbly sung by McQuaid with Niamh Parsons.

An understated, well-crafted and assured collection, When Two Lovers Meet is almost quaint in its adherence to the folk ethic. But it introduces a performer of considerable stature who may well go on to achieve greater things.

globalvillageidiot.net

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

A new name to me, but one to definitely follow in the future. A fabulous singer, reminiscent of June Tabor in her dark voice, but also a remarkably talented guitarist. Born in Spain and raised in America, she conveys Irish music with love, but also an objective eye that’s not above slowing down a reel to bring out its subtleties. Her version of ‘When A Man’s In Love’, with Gerry O’Beirne’s National offering an almost Indian feel, is nothing less than pure velvet, while her track with Niamh Parsons, ‘The Parting Glass’, is a showcase for two glorious voices.... All in all, this is quite a revelation, and even guest names like Trevor Hutchinson and John McSherry don’t divert the spotlight from McQuaid. One of the best Irish albums to travel down the pike in a long time.