Living Tradition - Clive Pownceby (Mar 2009)
I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning
Sarah McQuaid’s might be a new name to a fair few but when next you’re at your computer, tap into YouTube, and there are some of the loveliest songs you’ll hear all year. Her press release for ‘Won’t Go Home’ contains the strapline “Appalachian album takes Cornwall-based Sarah back to her roots” but that doesn’t even begin to describe the sense of just-rightness, the yearning, alluring quality to her voice nailing the subtle sharpness of these 11 songs. At a time when people are buying fewer CDs, new converts needn’t fear credit card misery acquiring an avalanche of back catalogue either – this surprisingly, is just McQuaid’s second offering in 10 years.
Born in Madrid, the daughter of a Spanish father and American mother, raised in Chicago she spent many years in Ireland before bedding down in Penzance last year with her family. The album is dedicated to the memory of her mother, (“she had a lovely natural style of singing and playing guitar”) who, though she never performed professionally, was obviously a formative influence, acquainting Sarah with the music of Jean Ritchie, Peggy Seeger and other singers and collectors. Whilst describing herself as a singer-writer, there is enough Trad.arr. material here to engage the most ardent devotees of careworn women, relationship betrayal, and heavenly homes and if you’ve a penchant for exhaustive and scholarly booklet notes, you’ve got them – 24 pages in all!
From rolling-sky soundtracks (East Virginia) to the snow-soft poignancy of Last Song for her late mother, McQuaid displays an elegant inventiveness, complemented by the precision of her eloquent backing musicians. With voice and arrangement not unlike Judee Sill’s on J.K. Alwood’s Uncloudy Day alongside a cover of Ode To Billy Joe that rivals Bobbie Gentry’s sun-dappled, yet menacing ambience, there’s no doubting the breadth of vision in these performances. Her lyrical world may be vulnerable and bittersweet imbued with an ache of loneliness and candid personal reflections, but it’s accessible without being slight. Revealing an honest and undisguised emotion, the effect is of a natural, unselfconscious feel. Sarah McQuaid has poured her heart into this record – but it’s also firmly attached to her sleeve and this is Folk music in every sense. It’s that good.