Sarah McQuaid Digs Deep on Her New Record (premiere)

Photo: Phil Nicholls

On If We Dig Deeper It Could Get Dangerous, Sarah McQuaid offers a new collection of captivating, unorthodox songwriting that muses on mortality.

Sarah McQuaid's music is as rich as her history. Now based in rural England, the roots artist was born in Madrid, raised in Chicago, and also had a 13-year stint in Ireland as a music journalist and magazine editor. She launched a solo career in 1997 with When Two Lovers Meet and has become known in folk circles for her unique incorporation of DADGAD tuning into her music. Despite not necessarily being a household name, McQuaid has seen her fair share in accomplishments over the past two decades, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Northern Ireland's Ards International Guitar Festival.

Her last record, Walking Into White, received acclaim in part for its drawing inspiration from Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons book series. Now, on her newest LP, McQuaid is once again digging deep to form a collection of music around a concept. Although, she warns, If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous.

The record was produced by fellow acclaimed guitarist and songwriting icon, Michael Chapman, and is set to release on 2 February via A Shovel and a Spade. Prior, McQuaid is sharing the album in its entirety with PopMatters. PopMatters readers will be privy to being some of the first ears to hear the accomplished singer-songwriter, author, and innovator's latest work, with If We Dig Any Deeper... musing a fair bit on the idea of mortality. Like McQuaid's layered satin vocals, however, these enthralling, harrowing arrangements often hold something more broadly-encompassing to chew on than initial listens may indicate.

Musically, as well, the record is as consummate and eclectic as fans of McQuaid would have come to expect. It's a gateway into a true innovator's soul. Whenever she isn't setting the focus on her revered DADGAD performance techniques, McQuaid is layering idiosyncratic percussive movements to craft the body of a tune ("One Sparrow Down") or letting her warm, compelling vocals cover a melancholy tale ("Forever Autumn").

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