On new album, Sarah McQuaid turns folk tradition inside out
The ghosts of 1970s British folk-rock, particularly Sandy Denny and Nick Drake, haunt Sarah McQuaid's luminous fourth album. "Walking Into White" opens with what sounds like a screen of static, as if to clear the canvas for the singer-songwriter's plainspoken ruminations on life and death. It is a soft but forceful record whose urgency is sometimes masked by the music's acoustic serenity. "Yellowstone" relays a 10-year-old boy's fascination with nature, but its gentle samba beat belies the existential anxiety bubbling underneath. McQuaid, who was born in Spain, raised in the United States, and now lives in rural England, is not a strict folk classicist. As heard on the syncopated title track, her sophisticated spins on the genre recall the work of Sam Amidon. They're both artists who honor tradition while illuminating why it endures and how it can be molded into new and original work.
ESSENTIAL: "Walking Into White"