Walking Into White

by Sarah McQuaid

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Walking Into White is the fourth solo album from Sarah McQuaid. To record it, she travelled from her adopted home in Cornwall, England, to the small town of Cornwall, New York, USA, in order to work with co-producers Jeremy Backofen (Frightened Rabbit, Felice Brothers) and Sarah’s cousin Adam Pierce (Mice Parade, Tom Brosseau, Múm).

Coming from outside the folk world and having never worked with Sarah before, Adam and Jeremy found and nurtured the raw edge and intensity that have always been present in her live performances, while their occasionally unorthodox recording methods (a mini-cassette recorder mounted on a microphone stand, for example) bring out a striking intimacy and immediacy in both her vocals and her guitar sound. Recorded and mixed in just under three weeks, Walking Into White is by far the most personal and emotional album Sarah has made to date.

Three of the songs take their inspiration from Arthur Ransome’s classic Swallows and Amazons series of children’s books. The title track uses the arresting image of two children lost in a moorland fog as an allegory for the sensation of stumbling blindly through life; in “The Tide”, a mud-bound sailboat becomes a portrait of a marriage, while “Where The Wind Decides To Blow” performs a similar transfiguration on a homemade sailing sled sent hurtling across a frozen lake by an unexpected blizzard.

In “Yellowstone”, a young boy’s obsession with the spectre of volcanic apocalypse sparks a rumination on the buried terrors that haunt us all: “I know I’m not the only one / To fear the ground I tread upon / Volcanos of all kinds / Torment our minds,” Sarah sings almost meditatively over a samba rhythm delicately embellished by Adam’s cajón and Dan Lippel’s classical guitar.

“Jackdaws Rising” takes the form of a three-part round, with Sarah’s lyrics and vocal melodies overlapping in counterpoint to a guitar instrumental composed by her friends Pete Coleman and Clare Hines. The other two parts are sung by Adele Schulz (who also contributes beautiful harmonies on “The Tide”) and Sarah’s manager and touring sound engineer, Martin Stansbury. Sarah, Martin, Adam and Jeremy all supply the stomps and handclaps that punctuate this 4/4 song in 5/4 time – a brain-tickling polyrhythm that was one of many ideas introduced by Adam.

Other guest musicians include Gareth Flowers, whose soaring trumpet brings the upbeat single “The Silver Lining” to a stirring climax (he also duets with Sarah on the title song), cellist Kivie Cahn-Lipman (“Where The Wind Decides To Blow” and Sarah’s evocative guitar instrumental “I Am Grateful For What I Have”), and pianist Rob King (“The Tide”). Jeremy plays bass on “The Silver Lining”, and Adam pitches in on a plethora of instruments. On the album opener “Low Winter Sun”, he uses an electric guitar and an early 1980s synthesizer to create a wash of sound that acts as foil and underpinning for Sarah’s acoustic guitar rendition of a church bell peal; elsewhere, he plays everything from the aforementioned cajón to drums, tambourine, bass, vibraphones and air organ (this last item is also played by Martin to fine effect on Sarah’s setting of the early 20th century hymn “Canticle Of The Sun/All Creatures Of Our God And King”).

Rounding out the album are “Leave It For Another Day”, co-written by Sarah with Gerry O’Beirne, who produced all three of her previous solo recordings; “Sweetness And Pain”, an a cappella song split into three parts that serve as brief interludes between the other tracks; and a cover of Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”.


released February 2, 2015

Produced and mixed by Adam Pierce and Jeremy Backofen
Engineered by Jeremy Backofen
Creative direction by Martin Stansbury
Recorded and mixed at Tree Time Studios, Cornwall, NY, USA
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music, New Windsor, NY, USA
Design and original cover artwork by Mary Guinan
Photography by Phil Nicholls



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Sarah McQuaid Penzance, UK

Sarah McQuaid’s voice has been likened to malt whiskey, melted chocolate and “honey poured into wine” (Minor 7th). A captivating performer, she seduces her audience with cheeky banter and stories from the road, as well as with stunning musicianship; in her hands, the guitar becomes much more than merely an accompanying instrument. ... more


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Track Name: Low Winter Sun
Driving uphill with the sun in my eyes
I can only see branches and sky
The hawthorn tree stunted
By wind rushing over it
Touches my soul
Like the brushing of fingers on skin

I am blinded
By the low winter sun
I am reminded
Of all the careless, hurtful, foolish
Things I’ve done
Low winter sun

The bells chime
For noon time
And I’m driving blind

This day will soon be done
Low winter sun
Track Name: Where The Wind Decides To Blow
We saw the cloud approaching
Like an anvil in the sky
We saw the skaters making for the shore
But we thought we’d read the signal right
To start across the ice
And so we rigged our little sail and headed north
We headed north

The storm was down on top of us
Before we had the chance
To look around and see the danger that was coming
It’s hard to steer without a tiller
When the wind cuts through your hands
And stings your eyes until the rimy tears are running
The tears are running
We’ve got to ride it
We’re blinded
In the white-out of the driving snow
We’re going where the wind decides to blow

This little sled was never made
To hold up in such weather
The mast is bent and creaking in the wind
Hang on tight and close your eyes
At least we’re still together
Even if we can’t escape the fix we’re in
The fix we’re in

We’ve got to ride it
We’re blinded
In the white-out of the driving snow
We’re going where the wind decides to blow
Track Name: The Tide
These tidal waters tell a lie
Their broad and shining surface hides
A narrow path through muddy shallows
Marked by secret signs

The channel twists and turns
And heaven help you if you try
To find a shorter way across
Or if you fail to read the signs
You’ll run aground with no way out
Until the turning of the tide

But the tide will rise in time
Be ready with your boat to meet it
Feel the water lift you
Till you’re floating free
Hoist your sail and find a channel
Deep enough to carry you
To open sea

Well there’s been time for many tides
To fall and rise since you and I
Fetched up in shallow waters
That have muddied up our lives

The channel flows just out of reach
In sight of where we lie
And watch so many ships and sailors
Gliding effortlessly by
They glance at us with pity
In their sad and knowing eyes

But the tide will rise in time
We’ll be ready with our boat to meet it
Feel the water lift us
Till we’re floating free
Hoist our sail and find a channel
Deep enough to carry us
To open sea
Track Name: Sweetness And Pain I
The sweetness of the berry
Doesn’t take away the pain
Of the briar when it stabs you
In the hand
But the power of your craving
For the fruit among the thorns
Is driving you to risk
Another chance
Sweetness and pain
Summer sun and autumn rain
Track Name: Walking Into White
They hadn’t long to go
That afternoon
The light on the moor was gold
The distant mountains shone

They were chatting as they strolled
In make-believe
Of ships in days of old
And pirate thieves 

The boy glanced back
The way they’d come
He said hello, that’s strange
The hill we just walked down is gone
The clouds have blotted out the sun
And everything has changed

The fog came down
A white cloud on the ground
She said we’ll be all right
Just keep walking into white 

Across the moor they go
Trying to feel their way
Hold my hand, take it slow
It’s going to be okay

The fog came down
A white cloud on the ground
She said we’ll be all right
Just keep walking into white
Track Name: Jackdaws Rising
Jackdaws rising
All together
Glinting eyes
And jet black feathers

Rough cries
For the dark is falling

Wind among the trees
Rustling of the leaves
Scudding clouds
And stars appearing

Startled by the flapping
Of a bat wing just above her
A rabbit dives beneath a shrub
And trembles under cover 

Light starts to fade
Night calls the shades
Of others
Who have gone before us

Hark to them
Welcome them
Draw breath
And join the chorus
Track Name: Yellowstone
My son can’t sleep
He’s ten years old
He’s scared that Yellowstone will blow
And when it does
It could set off
A mighty chain reaction
Volcanos round the world exploding
Darkened skies and lava flowing
His mind won’t let it go
He’s ten years old

I try to tell him not to worry
There’s no point in dwelling
On the things we can’t control
Especially when we’re ten years old
I try to tell him how the chances
Are so small that circumstances
Will combine to trigger
That eventuality
And he looks back at me
He says I know all that
But even so
My mind won’t let it go

Well I’ve got worries
Of my own
Another simmering Yellowstone
Beneath the earth
Releasing spurts
Each time the pressure rises
I know I’m not the only one
To fear the ground I tread upon
Volcanos of all kinds
Torment our minds

Who am I to say don’t worry
How can we help dwelling
On the things we can’t control
Even if we’re more than ten years old
The sea of molten rock below us
Haunts our dreams and undermines us
Causing us to falter
As we struggle on our way
Just trying to live each day
In hope that Yellowstone
Won’t blow
Let it go
Track Name: The Silver Lining
I am constantly amazed
By the providential nature
Of the choices that I didn’t think I made
Sometimes it’s good to miss the boat
The ship that sails could fail to float
The job that you were after
Was a trap and you’ll be  happier without it

I don’t mind the sun not shining
I can see the silver lining
Through the rain

There’s no method to my madness
And I can’t help feeling sad when
Things don’t turn out quite the way I thought I planned them 
But when I look back on my life
I see things in a different light
And nothing’s ever wasted
Cos one day you might be grateful that you did it

I don’t mind the sun not shining
I can see the silver lining
Through the rain

We’re been through some heavy weather
Running hard and falling far behind
But up ahead the clouds are lifting
And they say the wind is shifting
I believe the wrong things happen
At the right time

I don’t mind the sun not shining
I can see the silver lining
Through the rain
Track Name: Sweetness And Pain II
The bramble does not seek to harm
It merely seeks to live
It injures without malice
Or intention
There’s no question of forgiveness
No apology, no pardon
For minor wounds too numerous
To mention
Sweetness and pain
Winter winds return again
Track Name: Leave It For Another Day
I can’t begin
To explain
Wouldn’t know what words to say
Leave it for another day

And there is no plan
That I can understand
Why do we go on this way
Leave it for another day

I see you in the morning
Still haunted by the night
I touch your face to tell you
It’s all right

Remember when we lay
In the woods all night
And stumbled home across the fields
Happy and bleary eyed 

The mist around our feet
Lay heavy on the ground
We floated through the cold grey air
Suspended on a cloud

You come to me in the morning
Still haunted by the night
I touch your face to tell you
It’s all right

If I had my way
We’d shut the world out
We’d close our eyes and think of things
That don’t hurt to think about

I’d sing to you in the morning
I’d hold you through the night
I’d touch your face to tell you
It’s all right
Track Name: Sweetness And Pain III
Sharp black thorns
Concealed and smoothed
By softly falling snow
Drops of blood
Like bright red flowers
This hurt will pass
Just let it go
Sweetness and pain
Shake it off and start again