Album Review: Sarah McQuaid – If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous

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.

Tour dates 2018
Thu Mar 1 – Julien’s Bistro-Bar, Erkelenz, DE
Fri Mar 2 – Kulturzentrum zum Heidbarghof, Hamburg, DE
Sat Mar 3 – Volksbad Buckau, Magdeburg, DE
Sun Mar 4 – Zimmer 16, Berlin-Pankow, DE
Wed Mar 7 – Knebels Scheune, Forst, DE
Thu Mar 8 – Kleinkunstbühne Kultur im Stall, Rheinau,DE
Fri Mar 9 – Spiegelslust Turmcafe, Marburg, DE
Sat Mar 10 – Theater Landgraaf, NL
Sun Mar 11 – Fresenhof, Lüerdissen, DE
Mon Mar 12 – Liederbuch Zwickau, DE
Wed Mar 14 – Kulturcafe M, Dohna, DE
Thu Mar 15 – Kaffeeschuppen, Halle (Saale), DE
Fri Mar 16 – Haus der Kultur, Waldkraiburg, DE
Sat Mar 17 – Burg Rabenstein, Ahorntal, DE
Sun Mar 18 – Ev. Kirche Nürnberg-Fischbach, Nürnberg, DE
Mon Mar 19 – Folk im Feuerschlösschen, Bad Honnef, DE

Sat Apr 21 – The Beehive, Honiton, UK
Sun Apr 22 – The Green Man Gallery, Buxton, UK
Tue Apr 24 – Nuneaton Library, UK
Wed Apr 25 – Farncombe Music Club, UK
Thu Apr 26 – Bridgwater Arts Centre, UK
Fri Apr 27 – Artrix, Bromsgrove, UK
Sat Apr 28 – Miners’ Theatre, Ammanford, UK

Mon Apr 30 – Ballymore Acoustic Gigs, Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare, IE
Wed May 2 – Groucho’s, Richhill, NI
Thu May 3 – Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Belfast, NI
Fri May 4 – Ards Arts Centre, Newtownards, NI
Sat May 5 – Crusoe’s, Castlerock, NI

Tue May 8 – Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh, UK
Wed May 9 – Resipole Studios, Acharacle, UK
Fri May 11 – Atlantic Islands Centre, Isle of Luing, UK
Sat May 12 – Transclyde Music, Isle of Bute, UK
Thu May 17 – Nottingham Playhouse Studio, UK
Sat May 19 – Tŷ Siamas, Dolgellau, UK
Sun May 20 – High Forest Community Centre, Allendale, UK
Wed May 23 – The Milton Rooms, Malton, North Yorkshire, UK
Thu May 24 – Settle Victoria Hall, Settle, North Yorkshire, UK
Fri May 25 – Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, UK
Sat May 26 – Silver Street Sessions, Wiveliscombe, UK

Fri Sept 7 – Green Wood Coffeehouse, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Sun Sept 9 – Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN, USA
Thu Sept 13 – The Park Center, Hayward, WI, USA
Sat Sept 15 – Maple Street Coffeehouse, Lombard, IL, USA
Sun Sept 16 – Lake County Folk Club, Grayslake, IL, USA
Wed Sept 19 – White Mountain Library, Rock Springs, WY, USA
Thu Sept 20 – Sherbino Theater, Ridgway, CO, USA
Sat Sept 22 – Russ & Julie’s House Concerts, Oak Park, CA, USA
Wed Sept 26 – Alpine Public Library, Alpine, TX, USA
Thu Sept 27 – Fort Stockton Public Library, Fort Stockton, TX, USA
Fri Sept 28 – High Plains Public Radio Living Room Concerts, Amarillo, TX, USA
Sat Sept 29 – Harmony House Concerts, Ravenna, TX, USA
Sun Sept 30 – Open Ears Concerts, Austin, TX, USA
Tue Oct 2 – M. Beven Eckert Memorial Library, Mason, TX, USA
Thu Oct 4 – House Concerts Chez Chase, Memphis, TN, USA
Fri Oct 5 – Back Door Coffeehouse, Hattiesburg, MS, USA
Sat Oct 13 – Northborough Free Library, Northborough, MA, USA
Fri Oct 19 – Princeton Folk Music Society, Princeton, NJ, USA
Sun Oct 21 – Woods Hole Folk Music Society, Woods Hole, MA, USA

Thu Nov 1 – No8 Launceston, UK
Fri Nov 2 – The Village Pump @The Lamb, Trowbridge, UK
Sat Nov 3 – PinDrop Events, Malvern, UK
Tue Nov 6 – Great kNight Folk Club, Northampton, UK
Wed Nov 7 – Llantrisant Folk Club, UK
Thu Nov 15 – Redbourn Folk Club (near St Albans), UK
Fri Nov 16 – ACE Space, Newbury, UK
Sat Nov 17 – West Kirby Arts Centre, UK
Sun Nov 18 – Bothy Folk Club, Southport, UK
Fri Nov 23 – Gable End Theatre, Lyness, Hoy, Orkney, UK
Wed Nov 28 – Old Fire Station, Carlisle, UK
Thu Nov 29 – Rothbury Roots, UK
Sat Dec 1 – South Devon Music, Bovey Tracey, UK

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Review by Phil Daniels

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