Shire Folk - Jonathan Roscoe (May-June 2018)

http://www.shirefolk.org.uk
Sarah_McQuaid_Shire_Folk_2018SARAH McQUAID
If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous
Shovel and a Spade Records

Chicago-bred, Cornwall-based singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid has been building a reputation since her first album – a mix of Irish traditional songs and instrumentals – was re-released in 2007. This reputation, based on the meticulous construction of her songs and a slightly academic approach to songwriting, was only enhanced by her well-received book on DADGAD tuning. Third album, The Plum Tree and the Rose, garnered much praise and showed that she was no slouch with an original song herself. It was fourth album, Walking Into White, that showed a hitherto unseen experimental side; mixing folk, psychedelia and indie rock. In many ways If We Dig Any Deeper... is the culmination of both sides of her musical personality, and is undoubtedly her finest yet. And it’s got Michael Chapman producing it – what’s not to like?

Chapman lends guitar-playing skills to several of the tracks, and the instrumental ‘That Day of Wrath, That Day’ bears all the hallmarks of Chapman’s 2015 album, Fish. Don’t let the presence of Chapman fool you, though. This is very much McQuaid’s album.

Her academic side can be seen on ‘Cot Valley’ about child labour in the Cornish tin mines, and her skilful arrangement of the Gregorian chant ‘Dies Irae’, the opening of which cleverly mimics the preceding track – a cover of Justin Hayward’s ‘Forever Autumn’. McQuaid’s experimental side is never far away, however. There’s the percussive ‘One Sparrow Down’ with its cats chorus (literally in this case; McQuaid’s cat Nightshine), the wonderfully distorted guitar on the opening title track, and perhaps the chirpiest song about decomposition in existence, ‘Break Me Down’. The presence of Chapman won’t hurt sales, but there’s much more to If We Dig Any Deeper... than that. Check it out for yourself.