NetRhythms - David Kidman (Aug 2007)

August 2007 

Album review – When Two Lovers Meet. “47 minutes of pure delight.”

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

You can be easily forgiven for not having heard of Sarah... for this CD is a belated reissue of Sarah’s widely-acclaimed debut, which was first released on a purely limited basis in Ireland in 1997.

It’s a quiet, uniformly lyrical album, characterised by timeless, fine-toned, warm and gently sensuous singing and thoughtful, sparkling yet understated guitar work. The simple unadorned physical beauty of Sarah herself, as captured in the booklet’s photographic portraits, is mirrored by the spare beauty of the music on the disc: 47 minutes of pure delight, entirely embodying Sarah’s personal philosophy that “a soft approach can still be a source of joy, intensity, even wildness”. Indeed, the two lovers of the title could well be interpreted as vocal and instrumental performance, for their marriage is at once perfectly controlled and perfectly natural, both in conception and in execution.

The focus is always on Sarah’s singing or playing, and she’s blessed with unobtrusive and appealing settings which are a model of intelligence and sensitive restraint. In fact the overall feel of the album reminded me of the work of Niamh Parsons in that respect, and it came as no surprise to find her name among the credits (she duets with Sarah on her fabulous closing rendition of The Parting Glass, done to an unusual tune, a little reminiscent of Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood, which she learnt from the singing of Len Graham) along with piper John McSherry, bassist Trevor Hutchinson, cellist Kevin Murphy, fiddler Colm McGaughey, keyboard player Rod McVey and producer Gerry O’Beirne who pitches in with backing guitars and ukulele. The complement of the album is seven songs and three instrumental tracks, the latter rather surprisingly providing highlights of the set with richness in sparsity.

The songs include fetching variants of Sprig Of Thyme, the title track (also known as The Banks Of The Lee) and When A Man’s In Love, also one of Sarah's own compositions (Charlie’s Gone Home) which despite its “folkiness” still feels like the cuckoo in the nest (although it doesn’t compromise the mood of the album in any way). Sarah sings unaccompanied on just one song, the macaronic-form Táim Cortha Ó Bheith Im’ Aonar Im’ Luí. Finally, the good news is that Sarah’s just moved to Cornwall and plans to release a new CD next year. For the time being, though, this treasure of an album is now available easily in the UK through Proper Distribution and by the good auspices of Gael Linn.