Sarah McQuaid announces new album and tour dates

Sarah McQuaid

Produced by legendary singer-songwriter and guitar sage Michael Chapman, If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous is the fifth solo album by UK-based singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid.

Musings on mortality dominate this recording, but it’s by no means all gloom: ‘Break Me Down’ is possibly the cheeriest song ever written about decomposition, while ‘One Sparrow Down’ (backed not by Sarah’s trademark DADGAD-tuned guitar but rather by a battery of unorthodox percussion instruments including wine bottle and oven grill) takes a similarly upbeat approach to the death of a bird hell-bent on attacking its own reflection, unseen by the predatory cat calmly watching from her perch on the windowsill. In the liner notes for the album, Sarah thanks her cat Nightshine for contributing guest vocals to the track, and apologises to her for the implicit metaphor.

A cover of Jeff Wayne’s melancholy ‘Forever Autumn’ leads into an arrangement for voice and guitar of ‘Dies Irae’, the medieval chant whose melody is echoed not only in Wayne’s intro to his classic War Of The Worlds number but also in countless film soundtrack themes (The Exorcist, The Shining and Citizen Kane, to name a few). Here as elsewhere on the album, McQuaid’s guitar shines on an equal basis with her velvet-textured voice. Indeed, two of the tracks are purely instrumental: ‘New Beginnings’, written as a wedding march for former pop star Zoë Pollock of ‘Sunshine On A Rainy Day’ fame (with whom Sarah recorded the album Crow Coyote Buffalo under the band name Mama), and ‘The Day Of Wrath, That Day’, whose title is a literal translation of the first line in ‘Dies Irae’.

The propulsive, apocalyptic title track was inspired by a warning McQuaid heard herself giving her son as he excavated an enormous hole in their back garden. There’s an obvious allusion to fracking (‘Splitting cracks in the rock to free the power inside’), but the song’s thematic scope extends well beyond that: ‘Sometimes the way to fix a problem is to turn the pressure off’ is a maxim that could apply to virtually any aspect of life.

On four of the tracks, including lead single ‘The Tug Of The Moon’, McQuaid plays an electric guitar belonging to Chapman, which he’s since given her on long-term loan. ‘The precision and sophistication of the writing and playing blows me away. I am so glad to be involved,’ he writes in his introduction to the album booklet. Since meeting Sarah when both artists played the Village Pump Festival in 2014, Chapman has become a staunch friend and supporter, even performing as her opening act at a local concert he and his wife arranged for her. Sarah became a regular visitor to the Chapmans’ farmhouse in Cumbria, and during one visit he made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: ‘We were having a chat and a glass of wine, and he said ‘Why don’t you let me produce your next album?’,’ Sarah recalls. ‘I’m glad he said it, because I’d never have dared ask otherwise!’

Another new addition is piano, which McQuaid plays to beautiful effect on ‘The Silence Above Us’ as well as on ‘Slow Decay’ and ‘Forever Autumn’. Guest musicians include Chapman on archtop electric guitar, Roger Luxton on drums and percussion, Samuel Hollis on upright and electric bass, Richard Evans on trumpet, Georgia Ellery on violin and Joe Pritchard on cello.

If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous was made possible thanks to financial support from Arts Council England Grants For The Arts, using public money from the Government and the National Lottery, and from Cultivator, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, Arts Council England and Cornwall Council. The album will be launched with a concert at the Acorn Arts Centre in Sarah’s adopted home town of Penzance on Thursday, 25 January, following which she’ll be touring it extensively in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany and the USA.

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.sarahmcquaid.com/

‘The Tug Of The Moon’ – official video:

Tour Dates

January 2018

Thursday 25. The Acorn, Parade Street, Penzance, Cornwall TR18 4BU

Friday 26. Limelight Theatre Queens Park Arts Centre, Queens Park, Aylesbury, Bucks HP21 7RT

Sunday 28. Folk In The Barn  The Black Robin, Covet Lane, Kingston, nr Canterbury, Kent CT4 6HS

Monday 29. Colchester Folk Club Colchester Arts Centre, Church Street, Colchester, Essex CO1 1NF

Tuesday 30. The Roses Sunday Street, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire GL20 5NX

Wednesday 31. Pavilions The Den Crescent, Teignmouth, Devon TQ14 8BG

February 2018

Friday 2. The Poly 24 Church Street, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 3EG

Sat 3. The Millpool Centre  The Millpool, West Looe, Cornwall PL13 2AF

Sunday 4. The Square and Compass  Worth Matravers, Swanage, Dorset BH19 3LF

Monday 5. Terrace Cred @ The Greys 105 Southover Street, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 9UA

Thursday 8. The Brindley Arts Centre High Street, Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7 1BG

Friday 9. The Sheep Dip Sessions Sheep Dip Lane, Princethorpe, Rugby, Warwickshire CV23 9SP

Saturday 10. Ustinov Studio Theatre Royal Bath, Sawclose, Bath, Somerset BA1 1ET

Sunday 11. The Wharf Canal Road, Tavistock, Devon PL19 8AT

SINGLES BAR 25

A round-up of recent EPs and singles with compliments of the season

Singles Bar 25WOLFNOTE are a new trio from Berkshire making their debut with an EP, Frightened Of Your Own F#. The three female members, Bex, Gill and Ceri, have strong voices and harmonise well and between them play guitar, violin, cello, dulcimer and recorders and their silent partner, Mike, plays guitar, bass and cajon. The record starts with a cover of Dylan’s ‘Girl From The North Country’ taken a little more quickly than most people do – it can drag, sometimes. The other songs are originals and ‘Love And Light’ is particularly good. The production is excellent, concentrating on the voices with the instrumental leads clear and bright. A name to watch.
https://www.facebook.com/wolfnoteband/

‘The Tug Of The Moon’ is the first single to be taken from If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous, the forthcoming album by SARAH McQUAID. This could be the only song ever inspired by Newton’s third law of motion and its effect on sidereal time.  Behind the science is the thought that we are all spinning towards the end of the universe and perhaps we should make the most of our time. Sarah creates a wonderful sound with fingerpicked electric guitar drenched in reverb.
www.sarahmcquaid.com

While her new band settles in DARIA KULESH releases a single supported by two of her duo partners, Jonny Dyer and Marina Osman. ‘Vasilisa’ is an old Russian fairy tale from a book that Daria read as a child and still has. The story contains certain elements of Cinderella but far nastier and involves a supposedly deadly errand, the famous witch Baba Yaga and some unpleasant deaths. It has the mysterious air of Daria’s other Russian adaptations with the drone of a shruti box, dramatic piano, percussion and bouzouki.
http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

It’s that time of year, so folk have been getting into the festive mood for seasonal singles. First up comes the rather lovely download (from the usual sources) only ‘What Will Christmas Be’, a melancholic piano (Danny Mitchell) and cello (Chelsea McGough) ballad duet from BEN GLOVER and NATALIE SCHLAB about absence and loss at a time traditionally about being together, set off with a final peal of bells.
https://www.benglover.co.uk/

Season Bright is a seasonal EP from EMILY EWING & ROBERT LANE. Robert is well known to folking readers and Emily is a singer-songwriter with a download EP to her name and a growing reputation. The lead tracks begins with Robert and Emily lamenting the fact that they’ll be spending Christmas alone (surely not) and moves on to the exhortation to “keep your loved ones near” over some lovely ringing electric guitar. The other tracks are the guitar-led ‘Get You’ and ‘Own It’, built around Emily’s piano. Available from iTunes.
http://www.robertlanemusic.co.uk/

Jo Whitby aka LAURENCE MADE ME CRY mirrors the mood with her download single ‘It’s Not You, It’s Christmas’ (from her bandcamp site), a slow walking fuzzed reverb guitar (sounding like a kazoo on acid) and drums ditty about choosing to spend the festivities alone at home, although she still wishes everyone seasonal cheer.
http://laurencemademecry.com/

SKINNY LISTER also get into the act with ‘Christmas Calls’ (XtraMile), an epic sounding arms-linked swayalong anthem very much in the Pogues ‘Fairytale’ mould, complete with military drums, bells and whistles.
http://skinnylister.com/

From last year’s Edison Gloriette album, JESS MORGAN releases download Jay Chakravorty remix of the Moonstruck-inspired ‘Come To The Opera With Me Loretta’ (Drabant Music) that removes the piano, putting more focus on the vocals and giving it an anthemic seasonal synths and drums shimmer makeover.
http://www.jessmorgan.co.uk/

Away from the holly and ivy,Yorkshire’s FRAN WYBURN self-releases ‘Foolish Sea’, George Birkett’s fingerpicking and Rachel Brown’s cello backdropping her pure, little girl vocals on a quirky tale of unrequited love that serves as a taster to her forthcoming album.
http://www.franwyburn.com/

There is not so much Christmas spirit but an awful lot of pain in ‘Love Left Lost’, the second single from Brighton-based singer-songwriter JOSH McGOVERN. Quite which subterranean depths that voice comes from is hard to say but the tragedy is delivered over minimal acoustic and with soulful backing vocals on the choruses.
https://www.facebook.com/Joshmmusic

To mark the twentieth anniversary of the death of blues guitarist LUTHER ALLISON Ruf records have released a limited edition eleven disc box set of his later work. As a taster there is a 7” vinyl single: ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ and ‘Night Life’. The lead track starts with a deceptively simple Hammond organ and Luther waits until the chorus comes round for the band to kick in and then it takes off with some wonderful “doo-de-doo” backing vocals.
http://www.rufrecords.de

Lifetime Achievement Award for Sarah McQuaid at Ards International Guitar Festival

Sarah McQuaid

At the Ards International Guitar Festival, Sarah McQuaid was presented with the festival’s annual Lifetime Achievement Award. Previous recipients over the festival’s 20-year history include legendary guitarists Davey Graham, John Renbourn, John Martyn, Arty McGlynn, Martin Simpson, Gordon Giltrap, Pierre Bensusan and Martin Carthy.

Sarah recalls her initially annoyed reaction when compere Ralph McLean of BBC Radio Ulster and festival director Ernie McMillen of Avalon Guitars came out to present the award:

“I’d just finished my set and left the stage, and the crowd was calling for an encore, but before I could come back out from the wings, Ralph McLean and Ernie McMillen walked onstage and started talking about the Lifetime Achievement Award.

I just thought, ‘Oh, rats, now they’ll bring out some big-name guitarist to accept this bloody award and I won’t get to do my encore!’ Never in a million years did I think it would go to me. I was totally and completely floored. It’s a very, very big deal to be placed on a level with so many of my musical heroes.”

And she did get to do an encore after all, performing a cover of Ewan MacColl’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, which she also recorded on her fourth solo album Walking Into White (Waterbug, 2015).

“Every year since 1999, Ards International Guitar Festival has awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award to an artist performing at the Festival,” explains the Ards Arts Centre’s Emily Crawford, co-director of the festival along with Ernie McMillen and Darren Porter. “There has never been a female recipient of the award, and with an artist of the calibre of Sarah McQuaid on our bill, it was an easy decision to make in 2017! The Newtownard’s Guitar Festival features guitar styles from classical to blues, folk to jazz and bluegrass to rock.

“A favourite of local audiences in Ards, Sarah has a true gift and captivates the audience with seamless playing and an effortlessly enchanting voice,” Crawford continues. “She and her guitar become one beautiful sound, and her goosebump-inducing rendition of ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ was the perfect end to an outstanding performance.”

Ernie McMillen agrees: “It is rare in the guitar world to find a player who displays genius without arrogance, and who shares their hard-won skill and knowledge so selflessly,” he says. “I get to see many specialist guitarists up close, and many over-perform. It’s honey for the soul to witness Sarah McQuaid perform.”

Sarah McQuaid is currently hard at work writing songs for her fifth solo album, to be produced by folk icon Michael Chapman and released in 2018 (once again on the US-based Waterbug label) with album launch tours in the UK, Ireland, Continental Europe and the USA.

She also hopes to pen a sequel to The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book, the popular tutor she authored on the alternative guitar tuning she uses exclusively – originally published in 1995 and still the standard reference on the subject, selling worldwide through Novello & Co. /The Music Sales Group and Hal Leonard Corp.

Artist’s website: www.sarahmcquaid.com

‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ live:

SARAH McQUAID – Walking Into White (Waterbug WBG119)

Walking Into WhiteThe first thing that strikes you about Sarah McQuaid is her guitar sound: clear, ringing trebles and big authoritative bass notes. It should come as no surprise that she runs workshops on playing DADGAD and uses that skill to play an accompaniment based on peals of bells on the opening track, ‘Low Winter Sun’. The second thing that strikes you is how assertive this album is. If I were to be critical I’d say that the production is a bit too bright but we’re so used to soft breathy female singers that Sarah stands out as a welcome breath of fresh air.

Several of the songs here were inspired by the Swallows And Amazons novel evoking the mythical, idyllic childhood we all wish we’d had but never quite managed. All three of them involve the unpredictability of nature: a blizzard, an all-engulfing moorland fog and the tide stranding a boat on the mud. All dangers, true, but in a curiously innocent way compared with those faced by today’s children. The best of these is the album’s title track which features the trumpet of Gareth Flowers.

Nature’s ambivalence is also the theme of the unaccompanied three part ‘Sweetness And Pain’, a song about picking blackberries. Other highlights are the instrumental ‘I Am Grateful For What I Have’ and ‘Jackdaws Rising’ a three-part round with a polyphonic rhythm for feet and hands – difficult to pull off.

At the end of the record comes ‘Canticle Of The Sun’, originally written by St Francis of Assisi and turned into the hymn ‘All Creatures Of Our God And King’ by William H Draper. If Sarah uses the original title I do think she should use the original words, too. And then she goes and almost spoils a splendid record by finishing with ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. What is it with this song? Everyone wants to sing it … and I really don’t want to hear it again. Ever.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.sarahmcquaid.com

‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ live in Tulsa:

SARAH McQUAID – The Silver Lining (Waterbug)

SARAH McQUAID – The Silver Lining‘The Silver Lining’ is the first single from Sarah’s forthcoming album, Walking Into White, scheduled for release in the UK in February.

The song is given a bright, almost brash, arrangement very much in keeping with the quality of Sarah’s voice. If ever the adjective “bell-like” was appropriate it is here as her voice rings out a song of optimism. The trumpet seems to herald a development but, sadly, no and the song ends too soon.

‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ holds a continuing fascination for singers and is enjoying another renaissance. Sarah’s version benefits from the ringing notes of her guitar – I’m sorry but we’re back to bells again – but she doesn’t do anything terribly different with the song.

Finally we have an instrumental, ‘I Am Grateful For What I Have’, with two guitars and cello. As a taster for Sarah’s new album, the single does its job but it’s more of an amuse bouche – unsatisfying by itself but suggestive of delights to follow.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.sarahmcquaid.com

SARAH McQUAID – The Plum Tree And The Rose (Waterbug Records WBG104)

Much like her heroine Bess Of Hardwick (“Hardwick’s Lofty Towers”) Sarah McQuaid has the intelligence and tenacity to cultivate her lyrics so that the legacy of her song-writing will remain long after she has passed away. If that sounds morose it isn’t meant to be. It’s just that McQuaid’s way with words will draw you in and leave you feeling as if you’ve just stepped from an invigorating shower. She’s the kind of writer who conveys her thoughts brilliantly via the media of music and, take for instance the opening track “Lift You Up And Let You Fly” within a few short verses she is able to let the listener know the pain but understanding in watching a child’s development and eventual release into the world with all the compassion of a mum who (hopefully) doesn’t watch Jeremy Kyle.

It has to be said that from a listener’s point of view this is where the producer and musician Gerry O’Beirne’s skill in utilising Bill Blackmore’s flugelhorn is an astute piece of placement. Think of Christy Moore’s “All For The Roses” if you’re unsure where you’ve heard this thought process before and, whilst on the subject of instrumentation much as I’d like to name every musician who contributed to this beautifully crafted album I’m afraid I can’t as I haven’t got the space. Let’s just say I’m bowled over with the creative input from everyone involved. In truth I could write a whole book on the subject of Sarah McQuaid’s way with words but perhaps that is best left to the lady herself. If you require any further incentive why not check out the gorgeous single “The Sun Goes On Rising” below and, like me I’m sure you will be seduced by Sarah’s alto vocals and perfectly solid performance. In the meantime I suppose I’ll just have to kill time waiting expectantly to hear the next album which if it’s anything like this recording will receive another ten out of ten. Highly recommended…buy it, buy it, buy it! PETE FYFE

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist web link and current tour dates: www.sarahmcquaid.com