Folkwales Online Magazine - Mick Tems

http://www.folkwales.org.uk/Magazine/Sept%202012/CD%20Reviews.html
SARAH McQUAID
The Plum Tree And The Rose
(WBG 104)

Sarah was born in Spain, raised in Chicago and holds a dual Irish-American passport. Her lovely low voice is one to die for, and she’s a superb DADGAD guitarist and songwriter; she holds DADGAD workshops at festivals around the globe, and she’s also the author of The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book. She moved to Ireland, and currently is living in Cornwall. The Plum Tree And The Rose is a remarkable and beautiful collection, enhanced by Sarah’s incisive and penetrating poetry, style of performance and inspiring choice of repertoire.

Sarah writes as a caring mother in Lift You Up And Let You Fly, as a historian in the pretty and imposing Hardwick’s Lofty Towers, and as an artist painting a detailed artwork of Kenilworth gardens and its bejewelled aviary. Solid Air, the tribute which the late, great John Martyn wrote for his friend Nick Drake, is a masterpiece, with Sarah solo on guitar and Bill Blackmore on trumpet. In Derby Cathedral captures the magnetism of this ancient, stunning monument, The Sun Goes On Rising centres on the recession and the hard economic times that affect everybody, and S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezeda takes the listener back to medieval Provence and the Occitan poet and troubadour Ellian de Cadenet, who lived from c. 1160 to c. 1235.

Sarah lingers in ancient mood for two more songs, John Dowland’s Can She Excuse My Wrongs (which has a startling and difficult guitar harmony line) and New Oysters New, one of Thomas Ravenscroft’s rounds and catches in which she sings with Niamh Parsons and Tom Barry of the Galway Baroque Choir. She returns to contemporary songwriting with So Much Rain and What Are We Going To Do, which she co-wrote with Irish studio producer Gerry O’Beirne, who makes an absolutely sterling job of Sarah’s CD. She easily avoids the incongruous chasm between modern writing and her love of Elizabethan and medieval music, which Sarah moulds into a moving, unique art form for today.

The title track is the most saddening and mysterious of all. Sarah says it was several years in the making and has a lot of emotional resonance for her. According to Sarah, can a person’s spirit exist in the physical things they leave behind? All in all, The Plum Tree And The Rose is an outstanding CD with spot-on production, and Sarah thanks all the team and the fine musicians who made it so.