26 February 2018
Album review – If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous. “A darkly melodic, richly layered folk tapestry ... haunting and sparse, yet beautifully rendered ... a voice as thick and soft as fur.”
If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous
Taking to heart the old adage “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” U.K. singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid expresses her wish to be returned to the earth in death, in “Break Me Down,” a darkly melodic, richly layered folk tapestry off her often haunting and sparse, yet beautifully rendered, album If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous.
Without sounding completely maudlin, McQuaid lightheartedly articulates her burial plans in these witty lines: “Let my bones enrich the soil / I’ve got some prime organic matter on me / shame to let it spoil.” By the same token, it would be a crime to blithely dismiss McQuaid’s fifth record as simply a depressingly dreary series of meditations on mortality by a disciple of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell.
In a playful mood, McQuaid ditches her guitars — prominently featured elsewhere with deft, intricate knotting in the deliberate, menacing title track and the quiet intimacy of “Slow Decay” — and tells of a kamikaze bird that dies flying into its own reflection in “One Sparrow Down.” Underneath, rattling percussion is tapped out on a wine bottle, a radiator and an oven grill. Patiently awaiting a chance to pounce on its prey, her cat Nightshine takes a vocal turn, devilishly meowing in the background of a slice-of-life vignette that manages to be both endearing and morose.
Death is almost everywhere on If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous, although it seems most at home in the gloomy suite of English folk that begins with Jeff Wayne’s “Forever Autumn” and winds through the apocalyptic “Dies Irae” and “The Day of Wrath, That Day.” And yet, McQuaid, with a voice as thick and soft as fur, is also capable of crafting more conventional folk-pop, such as “Cot Valley,” which sounds upbeat and hopeful, even as it remembers the role of child labor in Cornwall’s distant mining past and wishes for a more carefree existence for today’s youth. Let’s hope she keeps digging.