R2/Rock & Reel - Ian Pickles
Walking Into White
Sarah McQuaid’s new album is a meditation on landscape and nature and on our relationship with them. The songs are acutely observed and literate, almost like journal notes set to music. They’re measured and tranquil but they’re never dull because there is always a sense of restlessness and unease behind the poetry.
We are in dangerous country. We should not be deceived by its beauty. A blinding blizzard springs up as cloud rolls in like an anvil. Fog engulfs children on a high fell. Thorns scratch the hand that seeks their fruit. Album opener ‘Low Winter Sun’ sets the scene. A lyric of tremulous brevity reminds of us of those moments when, driving in winter, we are temporarily blinded by sunlight. The guitar plays church bells over distant rumbles of noise and McQuaid’s voice is calm and beguilingly frank. It’s a bit like receiving an unexpected confidence from a stranger.
Highlights include three songs based on the work of Arthur Ransome, and the a cappella ‘Sweetness And Pain’ which appears as three segments. The album closes with a heartfelt version of st. Francis of Assisi’s solo hit ‘Canticle Of The Sun’ and a particularly sweet cover of Ewan MacColl’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. And it’s all lovely.