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Sarah McQuaid
The Plum Tree And The Rose
(4 stars)
ENGLISH FOLK-THEMED ALBUM TRANSCENDS THE CENTURIES
The latest album from Irish-American folk singer, guitarist and songsmith Sarah McQuaid is a seamless blend of her own compelling compositions and songs drawn from the rich history of English folk music.

Her ‘Lift You Up And Let You Fly’ is an evocative look at a mother seeing her child turning to adulthood, with Bill Blackmore’s sombre horn playing an inventive and unexpected foil to McQuaid’s delicious vocals. ‘Hardwick’s Lofty Towers’ and ‘Kenilworth’ – not, despite the title, an ode to the mighty Luton Town – are two fine originals, boasting a timeless quality. ‘S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada’ dates from 13th century Provence, and features an Indian shruti box played by Sarah herself. McQuaid also treats us to a captivating version of John Martyn’s ‘Solid Air’, with Blackmore’s evocative flugelhorn in support. The acapella ‘New Oysters New’ and ‘In Gratitude I Sing’ are tantalisingly short. Not a complaint you hear too often round here!

The Plum Tree And The Rose showcases how McQuaid’s immersion in the folk milieu gives her an instinct for creating new works that slot comfortably into that tradition – and are destined to last. She has turned in an album that should feature on many end-of-year best-ofs.