SARAH McQUAID – Walking Into White (Waterbug WBG119)

Walking Into WhiteThe first thing that strikes you about Sarah McQuaid is her guitar sound: clear, ringing trebles and big authoritative bass notes. It should come as no surprise that she runs workshops on playing DADGAD and uses that skill to play an accompaniment based on peals of bells on the opening track, ‘Low Winter Sun’. The second thing that strikes you is how assertive this album is. If I were to be critical I’d say that the production is a bit too bright but we’re so used to soft breathy female singers that Sarah stands out as a welcome breath of fresh air.

Several of the songs here were inspired by the Swallows And Amazons novel evoking the mythical, idyllic childhood we all wish we’d had but never quite managed. All three of them involve the unpredictability of nature: a blizzard, an all-engulfing moorland fog and the tide stranding a boat on the mud. All dangers, true, but in a curiously innocent way compared with those faced by today’s children. The best of these is the album’s title track which features the trumpet of Gareth Flowers.

Nature’s ambivalence is also the theme of the unaccompanied three part ‘Sweetness And Pain’, a song about picking blackberries. Other highlights are the instrumental ‘I Am Grateful For What I Have’ and ‘Jackdaws Rising’ a three-part round with a polyphonic rhythm for feet and hands – difficult to pull off.

At the end of the record comes ‘Canticle Of The Sun’, originally written by St Francis of Assisi and turned into the hymn ‘All Creatures Of Our God And King’ by William H Draper. If Sarah uses the original title I do think she should use the original words, too. And then she goes and almost spoils a splendid record by finishing with ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. What is it with this song? Everyone wants to sing it … and I really don’t want to hear it again. Ever.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.sarahmcquaid.com

‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ live in Tulsa:


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