Concert Monkey - Ioana Nica

24 February 2015 

Album review – Walking Into White. “A deep, resonant record.”

ALBUM REVIEW: Sarah McQuaid - Walking Into White
The singer-songwriters always bring along the constant fascination for an endless ocean of emotions and stories shaped up with (apparently) so little resources – plain songs, their voice, a guitar or a piano. But their work is deeply rooted into the most precious thing that can be put out there: themselves. And behind each of them, there is a unique universe and personal history. Can there be anything more intriguing than that?

Music journalist, artist, folk singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid has a distinctive biography and background. Born in Spain, raised in US, taught how to sing by her mother, she toured from the age of 12 with the Chicago Children’s Choir, studied in France, settled in Ireland and later on moved to England. ‘Walking Into White’ is her fourth solo album.

The striking essentials of the album are the strength suggestive of cold and warm feelings without falling into the ‘sad versus happy’ cliché, the richness in sounds, themes and arrangements and its holistic approach towards different topics, leaving still enough space for contemplation and thought.

It talks a lot about childhood, hiding insightful metaphors on life behind beautiful lyrics and inspiration found in the bedtime reading done by Sarah to her kids. The title track together with two other songs – ‘Where The Wind Decides To Blow’ and ‘The Tide’ found inspiration in Arthur Ransome’s classic ‘Swallows and Amazons’ twelve children’s books. ‘Yellowstone’ is more direct, a true life-guiding advice against children fears which can ruin the beauty of life.

The same record brings together a vocal-only song and an instrumental-only one. As a great sign of Sarah McQuaid power of suggestion stands ‘Sweetness And Pain’, which was originally recorded as a full a cappella song, to be finally split into three parts across the record. At the opposite pole, ‘I Am Grateful For What I Have’ is a guitar ballad with a self explanatory title, which I find particularly significant for the entire philosophy of the record as it may represent the link between the introspection on less pleasant aspects of life (‘Low Winter Sun’ or ‘Jackdaws Rising’) and hope, joy and reassurance (‘The Silver Lining’ or ‘Leave It For Another Day’).

The album ends with two covers, ‘Canticle Of The Sun’ wrote in the 13th century by St. Francis of Assisi and best known as the hymn ‘All Creatures of Our God and King’. ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ is a beautiful version for a love song written for Peggy Seeger.

‘Walking Into White’ is a deep, resonant record with many variations which somehow keep the same high level of intensity. An ambitious project which obviously couldn’t be done without a significant previous experience. Melting together contemporary, medieval and Spanish rhythms or vocal, guitar, cello, synthesizer and trumpets harmonies, and still keeping the sense of a strange unity, which comes natural as if it was the most normal state of play… Such magnitude can only be found the frame of life itself.