Hot Press - Colm O’Hare

Sarah McQuaid
When Two Lovers Meet

As an artist, Sarah McQuaid – a Spanish-born, American-reared and Irish-based singer/songwriter – has several vital attributes. People who are familiar with Sarah’s writing in Hot Press will know that she is both knowledgeable and passionate about folk and traditional music. Her intelligence is matched by a warm, velvet-tinged voice and a distinctive acoustic guitar style which mark her out as a significant talent.

When Two Lovers Meet, her independently released debut, features her own arrangements on a selection of traditional songs and tunes, some familiar, others more obscure. Sparsely produced, generally with a minimum of instrumental adornment, the tunes live and breathe naturally, while the vocals – cloaked in just the right amount of reverb – complete the overall effect, which is wistful and melancholic.

The opening track, ‘Sprig Of Thyme’, a mournful ballad with exquisite harmonies, sets the tone perfectly. Gerry O’Beirne’s guitar, meanwhile, lends a lonesome Appalachian flavour to the sensual ‘When A Man’s In Love’.

The sprightly melody of ‘Johnny Lad’ is superbly enhanced by John McSherry’s whistle, but it is McQuaid’s vocals which stand out. ‘Charlie’s Gone Home’, the sole McQuaid original on the album, is an impressively wrought and accessible folk song that suggests greater potential as a songwriter. Despite its length, the epic title track itself holds the attention, aided in no small way by a haunting uilleann pipe solo. The album closes with an unaccompanied version of ‘The Parting Glass’ superbly sung by McQuaid with Niamh Parsons.

An understated, well-crafted and assured collection, When Two Lovers Meet is almost quaint in its adherence to the folk ethic. But it introduces a performer of considerable stature who may well go on to achieve greater things.