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SARAH MCQUAID - The Plum Tree And The Rose

SARAH MCQUAID - The Plum Tree And The Rose
Waterbug Records  WBG104

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

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

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

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

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 92 of The Living Tradition magazine.