1 February 2018
Album review – If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous. “Intricate playing, thoughtful songwriting and consistently outstanding vocal performances … McQuaid is an artist who really needs to be sitting at the top table of roots musicians in this country.”
Quality is almost assured before you even listen to any release by Sarah McQuaid. A singer with a voice that could melt chocolate it’s so warm and smooth, she is one of the most gifted solo performers on the circuit – and has forged an enviable reputation on the roots scene in this country as both a fine singer songwriter and revered guitarist. It’s fair to say, certainly from my point of view, this new album comes with much expectation.
The record kicks off with the title track. Somewhat surprisingly the first instrument you hear is a slightly overdriven electric guitar, which, whether intended or not sets up the listener for a few surprises along the way. The sparse arrangement of the track with the at times duel electric guitar parts and tom laden drum groove, along with a lead line on sax gives the track a real sultry sound – perfect for McQuaid’s velvet tones to decorate further.
The tom laden drum groove turns up again on ‘One Sparrow Down’ – and this time the slightly off kilter percussion it is the only accompaniment for the voice and metaphoric lyrics.
Piano takes centre stage on ‘The Silence Above Us’, with an echoing similarity to one of McQuaid’s finest numbers ‘In Derby Cathedral’, this is a pleasant ballad that is listed further by the mournful upright bass playing of Samuel Hollis.
A cover of the classic War of the Worlds track ‘Forever Autumn’, made so famous by The Moody Blues Justin Hayward is a highlight – this version significantly more sparse than the original, slower, more anguished – and very much in keeping with the albums subtleness.
And so it continues – intricate playing, thoughtful song writing and consistently outstanding vocal performances as you would expect from this artist all the way through to the last track – ‘The Tug of the Moon’ – which finds Sarah alone with a solitary electric guitar guiding the emotion filled lyrics – all quite powerful.
The album is certainly varied – not an easy thing to achieve, and throughout there is a real appreciation of space being as much a part of a song as the instruments and voice. It’s an excellent balance that gives the whole recording a presence.
This is a really good record. It was expected, I won’t lie – but it achieves. McQuaid is an artist who really needs to be sitting at the top table of roots musicians in this country. After 20 years as a solo performer – and so much hard work along the way, I hope this is the one that ensures she achieves that level.