Hot Press - Jackie Hayden

Hot_Press_Sarah_McQuaid_2018_05_09SARAH McQUAID
If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous
Shovel & Spade Records
8/10
LIFE AND DEATH ISSUES UNDER THE MCQUAID SCALPEL

This is Sarah McQuaid’s fifth solo album. Noted English guitarist Michael Chapman is the producer here, and his slightly rough-edged approach serves as an ideal foil for McQuaid’s polished precision: the album is not merely a fine showcase of her liquid voice but also of her superb guitar style. When she marries both to her unerring songwriting skills, something truly marvellous happens.

‘If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous’, buoyed by McQuaid’s plangent electric guitar, could be about fracking or might just be a general alert to be careful out there: its unsettling feel reflects the urgency of the message. ‘One Sparrow Down’ features an array of percussion instruments, including a bottle and a kitchen grill, for a grim tale of a bird falling prey to a cat, while the keyboard-led ‘Break Me Down’ takes a wry look at bodily decay. A similar exploration of time passing puts an edge on the more folk-tradish ‘Slow Decay’.

McQuaid has form in re- fashioning covers. Here she turns on Justin Hayward’s hit ‘Forever Autumn’ before leading to a breathtaking voice, guitars and cello version of the Gregorian chant ‘Dies Irae’. On paper it mightn’t work, but sprinkle some Chapman- McQuaid magic over it and you’ve got an A-list classic. She adapts its opening line to name the sparky instrumental ‘The Day Of Wrath, That Day’, ably demonstrating her dexterous guitar-playing. She performs with equal aplomb on ‘New Beginnings’, composed as a wedding march for her occasional musical sidekick Zoë Pollock. And there’s also the deliciously plaintive, Cohenesque ‘The Tug Of The Moon’ to marvel at.

McQuaid is well-served throughout by some splendid musicianship, with kudos particularly to Richard Evans (trumpet) and Sam Hollis (bass) for their thoughtful additions to the feast. Excellent stuff.