No Label SMQCD001
This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 11/07
Sarah McQuaid was born in Spain and raised in
Chicago. She moved to Ireland in 1994. To my shame, Sarah's was a new
name to me. I say “to my shame” because this is a re-release of a CD
first seeing the light of day in 1997.
Clearly it's been my loss. She is a real talent. And she has come up with an album here that has perhaps “gracefulness” as its watchword. Everything is done with an elegance and a certain economy of style and emotion. It ticks all the boxes for those of us wanting a quality album based largely on the Irish tradition.
She is joined on one track by Niamh Parsons on vocals, and throughout the album by the following talented bunch of musicians: Gerry O'Beirne (guitar and ukulele, and who also produced the CD); Trevor Hutchinson (double bass); John McSherry (whistle and pipes); Rod McVey (keyboards); Kevin Murphy (cello); Colm McCaughey (fiddle).
It is no coincidence that she chose to ask Niamh to contribute. There is much in Sarah's delivery that reminds one of that celebrated Irish singer. Outstanding vocal control, almost to the point of a June Tabor.
But for me, I would prefer it if she let her guard drop a bit, and allow a bit of IMPERFECTION to enter her delivery. I am not asking for a ragged edge exactly: just a little something that marks her out as a human with feet of clay, rather than a singing goddess (which frankly is the image that her stunning vocal control portrayed for me). Using one's voice as a pitch perfect musical instrument is one thing, but it does not always speak to the heart. Just the ear.
But that said, I must admit that it's oh so nice on the ear. It is an album that can send you off into a deep reverie.
The liner notes too, also impress. Sarah penned them, and they interested me more than most I read these days. For instance, she's surprisingly modest about the best track on the album, her self-penned Charlie's Gone Home. The song's construction made me think of a young Rosie Hardman at her best.
What I like most about the notes is the way she puts an idea in one's head. Talking of When A Man's In Love she says “I was struck by its sensuous lyrics (her hands so soft her breath so sweet/her tongue did gently glide … mmmm!”).
Golly, a song I had heard a million times suddenly took on a whole new aura for me! But Sarah, I would now call the lyrics decidedly SENSUAL rather than sensuous!
And I appreciated her observation re this particular track “I love the wide-open, lonely sound of the wooden and steel guitars together”.How grateful I am that she flagged that up for me. And her choice there of the word “lonely” is an inspired one.
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