Live review – Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival. “Sarah McQuaid is an exceptional artist with a notably poetic sensibility, capable of finding metaphorical resonance and profundity in mundane situations…. McQuaid’s songs were deep and serious but never dour.”
Belfast Songwriters: A Taste Of Nashville
While C2C was happening, in Northern Ireland the 15th Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival took place at the Clayton and Maldron Hotels. Maverick’s Trevor Hodgett went to review the event.
Sarah McQuaid is an exceptional artist with a notably poetic sensibility, capable of finding metaphorical resonance and profundity in mundane situations. If You Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous, for example, originated, she explained, in a comment she made to her young son when she found him digging a hole in their garden.
From that starting point, however, the meaning of the song evolves with McQuaid’s lyrics alluding to the potentially catastrophic effects of fracking and, more generally, suggesting that some situations in life are better left undisturbed.
Similarly, Walking Into White was inspired by Arthur Ransome’s novel ‘Swallows And Amazons’, which she was reading to her children. In the novel the child protagonists are lost in sudden fog. McQuaid, again, develops this situation and suggests how, perhaps, we all, in our confused lives, are struggling to find our way.
McQuaid’s songs were deep and serious but never dour and Cot Valley for one had a refreshingly positive message. Inspired by visiting a Cornish beauty spot on the site of a former tin mine in which children once laboured in brutal conditions, McQuaid in the song rejoiced at living in modern times where life quite simply is safer and healthier and more prosperous.
A surprising cover of Forever Autumn, written by Jeff Wayne, Paul Vigrass and Gary Osborne for ‘The War Of The Worlds’ rock opera and originally sung by Justin Hayward, was revelatory, the desolate lyrics, which can be overlooked in the sumptuous hit version, being powerfully communicated.
McQuaid is also an expressive singer and a stylish, imaginative guitarist, who plays in the DADGAD tuning originally developed by Davy Graham. The Day Of Wrath, That Day, an instrumental played on an electric guitar on long-term loan from cult singer-songwriter Michael Chapman, was ominous and unsettling and showed her musical prowess.