This is quite different from Sarah MacDougall’s last (award winning) album. That one was rootsy and almost traditional in style and songwriting. On ‘Grand Canyon’ she has added more instrumentation, a fuller sound and moved away from her folk roots but the result is still magical, her songs are still heartfelt and pluck at your heart and her voice – an amalgam of her Swedish roots and her Canadian home – is still arresting and full of emotion.
She sings about the things important to anyone who is living rather than existing: love, hope, growing and settling, fear and forgiveness. It all seems to come from the heart and once you start listening to the album it is difficult to pull away. This is probably the album that will break her to a wider audience but there doesn’t feel like there is any artifice behind the changes – this is where she is now.
The opening to ‘I Want To See The Light (Lost from our eyes)’ draws you in immediately with a shimmering quality, drums skittering and her voice, at once cold and pleading, standing out from the backing music. The drums are strong and the guitar parts, gently picking out the melody, underpin the theme rather than obscuring it. She takes you to a solitary place, walking the night streets unseen and unnoticed, but there is also an underlying feeling of fear and discomfort. Brilliantly unsettling.
As if to point in a totally different direction ‘Sparrowhead’ is all about meeting the ‘someone’ after ages of solitary touring and wandering. Full on sound and the horns at the end have a real emphasis and sense of joy. She revisits her origins in ‘Malmo I Mitt Hjarta’ and ‘The Story Of Pippi And Lionheart’ feels as though she is singing of the extremes of her new country as well as her old.
She has a sound that is definably her own but the music has its roots in many different places and you definitely sense this is a full grown album, working on many levels.
She will be touring later this year and it will be fascinating to see how these come across live.