Review: Sarah McQuaid @ Lichfield Guildhall

With little more than an acoustic guitar, a fine voice, some tasteful audio tricks, a repertoire of originals and some covers, the singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid kept the audience spellbound when she appeared at Lichfield Guildhall.

Sarah McQuaid. Pic: Dave Jones

Sarah McQuaid. Pic: Dave Jones

Following an extensive tour around America and smaller venues around the country, her well honed set list was pulled from her four album career, with all of the first half being a chronological performance of her most recent release, Walking into White. Played in this way, the full melancholic and autumnal nature was shown to good effect.

Melding musical, dextrously-played guitar in a number of tunings, with layered harmony vocals from various effects pedals and deft additions from sound mixer Martin Stansbury, the soundscapes had a haunting sound quality – a perfect foil for the subject matter of the songs.

As well as songs such as Low Winter Sun, Jackdaws Rising, Yellowstone and The Silver Lining, a number of smaller miniatures also featured. The three part suite of Sweetness and Pain was scattered throughout the set, while the short instrumental piece, I Am Grateful For What I Have, combined bluesy syncopations with a jig like structure.

The set – and album closer – was a fine rendition of Ewan McColl’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, the pathos and longing in the song expertly controlled by Sarah McQuaid’s voice.

The second half of the set featured songs from the previous three albums and a greater range of music, from the bluesy, accapela of Black Molasses, complete with audience participation, to the intricate finger-picking and expertly looped harmony vocals of In Derby Cathedral, this was music of the highest quality, set off by the resonant acoustics of the Guildhall.