Review: Sarah McQuaid, Thursday 9th May 2013 Milford Folk Club
McQuaid cradles her guitar. Lilting and dancing she draws its body close as though in an empty room. Smiling as she sings, it is as though the audience is party to an intimate moment between soul mates.
With a heritage providing links to four countries, McQuaid's repertoire wanders through Appalachian folk songs through traditional Irish songs, giving a nod to her Spanish roots on 'Aquí Me Pinté Yo (For Frida Kahlo)' and finding expression in her self-penned material, much of which was written in Cornwall, England.
The well-executed live sampling work of McQuaid's long time roadie and sound engineer Martin Stansbury provided an unexpected twist to the evening's music. Whilst not for me (I enjoyed the intimacy of McQuaid's solo work on guitar) this allowed McQuaid to demonstrate her vocal range through the addition of carefully planned harmonies. On the track 'In Derby Cathedral' the use of a round /canon undoubtedly added to the delicately crafted context and atmosphere of the piece.
Having mastered DADGAD tuning (McQuaid has published a book 'The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book') McQuaid avoided the need to re-tune between songs. Despite the repeated use of this tuning technique there were no two songs that were the same. Whilst there were common threads and themes-such as an interest in history evident in 'Kenilworth', 'In Derby Cathedral' and 'Hardwick's Lofty Towers' -it was McQuaid's skilful use of the textures and dynamics in her voice that kept my interest. On the traditional American Folk Song 'The chickens they are crowing' McQuaid chooses a simple drone against a single scale on the guitar over which the words are beautifully and poignantly delivered.