Sarah McQuaid
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Sarah McQuaid

Penzance, England, United Kingdom | INDIE

Penzance, England, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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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. - Danny McCloskey - The Alternate Root


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! - Clive Pownceby - Living Tradition


(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. - Volker Dick - Folker


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. - Miles Bartaby - The Journal of the Classic Rock Society


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. - John C. McClure - Victory Review


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. - David Hintz - FolkWorld


(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. - Torsten Sukrow - Rock Jazz Pop


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. - Dave Franklin - Green Man Music


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. - David Kushar - Spiral Earth


(4 stars)
(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. - Herman Veenhof - Nederlands Dagblad


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. - Kerry Dexter - Lonely Planet


(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. - Markus Dehm - Irland Journal


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. - Jim Marshall - The Folk Diary


(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! - Pete Fyfe - Maverick


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. - Peter Cowley - Fatea Magazine


(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. - Jackie Hayden - Hot Press


(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. - Jackie Hayden - Hot Press


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. - Paul Abraham - Keep Music Live


(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. - Koos Gijsman - Heaven Magazine


(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. - John Crosby - R2


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. - fRoots


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. - David Kidman - NetRhythms


(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 arti - Michel Preumont - Concerts-Review


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. - Michael Scott Cain - Rambles.net


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. - Seamus Doran - EUVue


(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 - Martin Overheul - Johnny's Garden


(English translation appears below Nederlands original.)
SARAH MCQUAID BETOVERT MET EIGEN WERK
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 coup - Mirjam Adriaans - FolkForum.nl


(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 - Johan Schoenmakers - AltCountryForum.nl


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. - Chris Spector - Midwest Record


(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”.

Tho - Valere Sampermans - Rootstime


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!) - Simon Holland - Properganda


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. - Clive Pownceby - Living Tradition


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. - fRoots (formerly Folk Roots)


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. - Rory McCabe - Journal of Music in Ireland


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. - Jackie Hayden - Hot Press


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. - David Kidman - NetRhythms


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. - Steve Wills - Americana UK


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. - Siobhán Long - The Irish Times


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. - Roy Harris - Taplas


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. - Dave Kushar - Spiral Earth


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. - fRoots (formerly Folk Roots)


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. - Eddie Janssens - Rootstime


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. - Allan Wilkinson - FATEA Magazine


(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. - Harry de Jong - Revolver Magazine


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. - Tom Druckenmiller - Sing Out!


(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! - Rein van den Berg (SMP) - Johnny’s Garden


(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. - Holly Moors - Moors Magazine


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. - Rob Forbes - Leicester Bangs


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 t - George Graham - WVIA-FM - The Graham Weekly Album Review


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. - Geoff Wallis & Sue Wilson, The Rough Guide To Irish Music


Discography

The Plum Tree and The Rose (2012)
Mama: Crow Coyote Buffalo (2009)
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning (2008)
When Two Lovers Meet (1997)

Photos

Bio

Sarah McQuaid is a gifted and captivating performer whose warm, haunting alto is delicately cradled by her “sparkling guitar” (Sing Out!). She is both song crafter and song collector, equally at home with traditional Irish and Appalachian folk songs, Elizabethan ballads and 1930s jazz numbers.

Her musical output is a direct and unfolding reflection of her own eclectic background: Sarah was born in Spain, raised in Chicago, holds dual US and Irish citizenship, and currently lives in rural England. While the genre, era and geographical location of her songs may change, at their core is a musician who has soaked it all in – and, luckily for us, is able to eloquently express the stories she’s gathered.

Born in Madrid (to a Spanish father and an American mother), raised in Chicago and holding dual Irish and American citizenship, Sarah McQuaid was taught piano and guitar by her folksinging mother, and remembers being inspired by meeting her distant cousin, well-known singer/songwriter/storyteller Gamble Rogers, at her grandmother’s house in Indiana. From the age of twelve she was embarking on tours of the US and Canada with the Chicago Children’s Choir, and at eighteen she went to France for a year to study philosophy at the University of Strasbourg.

She moved to Ireland in 1994 and lived there for 13 years, working as a music journalist and active member of Dublin’s arts community. In 2007, she re-released her critically acclaimed 1997 debut solo album, When Two Lovers Meet, and launched her solo career with a performance on Irish national television as the musical guest on John Kelly’s popular Friday evening arts show The View.

The same year saw her moving to England and playing major festivals like Sidmouth and Trowbridge, and in 2008 she released her second album, I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning. In contrast to the first album’s focus on Irish traditional songs and instrumentals, the follow-up was a celebration of old-time Appalachian folk, with Sarah’s arrangements punctuated by her own fine compositions and a cover of Bobbie Gentry’s classic “Ode to Billie Joe.”

Crow Coyote Buffalo, an album of songs co-written by Sarah with fellow Penzance resident Zoë (author and performer of 1991 hit single “Sunshine On A Rainy Day”), was released under the band name Mama in 2009 and garnered rave reviews: Spiral Earth described the pair as “Two pagan goddesses channelling the ghost of Jim Morrison,” while The Irish Times said they had “Janis Joplin’s freewheeling spirit crossed with Joni Mitchell’s lyrical density.”

Sarah is also the author of The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book, described by The Irish Times as “a godsend to aspiring traditional guitarists,” and has presented workshops on the DADGAD tuning at festivals and venues around the globe.

Sarah’s first two albums were re-released as a double-CD set in North America in February 2010 and immediately went to No. 1 on both the album and artist Folk-DJ chart. At year’s end, she had the No. 6 album on the Folk-DJ chart for 2010 overall, and was offered an official showcase at 2011’s International Folk Alliance Conference.

Her new album, The Plum Tree and The Rose, was released in March 2012 on the Chicago-based Waterbug Records label. It was No. 3 on the Folk-DJ chart for March 2012, and by April was No. 5 on the Euro Americana Chart; in June, it was No. 6 on the Roots Music Report Folk Top 50. Like its predecessors, it was produced by Gerry O’Beirne (Midnight Well, Patrick Street, Sharon Shannon Band) and engineered by Trevor Hutchinson (Waterboys, Lúnasa).

The Plum Tree and The Rose represents a departure from Sarah’s previous albums, which focused on her arrangements of traditional material, in that nine of its thirteen tracks are originals. Although a thread of personal experience is woven into the material, Sarah truly shines as a teller of parables. Whether she’s recounting the life of 16th century businesswoman Bess of Hardwick or standing in a cathedral and pondering the immortality of the soul, the specific detail subtly manifests a universal truth. These are songs that linger in the listener’s imagination.

On opening track “Lift You Up and Let You Fly,” warm strains from Bill Blackmore’s flugelhorn envelop a tender love letter from mother to daughter. Up next is “Hardwick’s Lofty Towers,” Sarah’s ode to the remarkable woman who built the magnificent Hardwick Hall near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. “Hardwick’s Lofty Towers” introduces a set of sister themes – spiritual questioning and the relationship between soul and place – that inspired a trio of originals dedicated to this topic: title track “The Plum Tree and the Rose” (track 12), “In Derby Cathedral” (track 5) and “Kenilworth” (track 4).

A folk album is not complete without comment on our current socio-political climate, and Sarah does excellent justice to the global economic downturn on “The Sun Goes on Rising,” co-written with producer Gerry O’Beirne. Also co-authored with O’B