Music Reviews

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Sarah McQuaid

Walking Into White

Waterbug Records

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

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

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

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