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Walking Into White

by Sarah McQuaid

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
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
The Tide 02:53
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
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
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
Jackdaws rising All together Glinting eyes And jet black feathers Rough cries Calling Muster 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
Yellowstone 03:40
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
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
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
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
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


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

“One of the most instantly recognisable voices in current music … Shades of Joni Mitchell in a jam with Karen Carpenter and Lana Del Rey.” —Neil March, Trust The Doc

“Captivating, unorthodox songwriting … layered satin vocals ... enthralling, harrowing arrangements … a gateway into a true innovator’s soul.” —PopMatters

See sarahmcquaid.com/about for more info.
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