In the digital era we live in, “listening to a record” has become a near-nonexistent phenomenon; even CD purchases tend to go straight onto an iPod from which tracks will pop up at random. UK-based singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid was keen to ensure that her fourth solo album Walking Into White got at least a few full-length listens before being subsumed into playlists – so she’s performing the whole thing live, track by track, as the first half of each concert on her forthcoming September-October US tour (see details of dates below).
Released in February in the UK and Europe and due for release in North America on the Waterbug label in August, Walking Into White has already drawn praise from critics: Johanna B. Bodde at InsurgentCountry.net called it “A combination of seasoned craft and innovative ideas … Highly recommended,” while in Folkwords, Tim Carroll wrote: “The echoing magic of Walking Into White, the latest album from Sarah McQuaid, seizes you from the first and holds you captured long after the last notes fade…. Sending out a trembling resonance, this is a collection of songs that feel their way into your being.”
“Sarah McQuaid has clearly held true to her own musical vision,” wrote Helen Gregory in Folk Radio UK, “and it’s to be hoped that Walking Into White is the album which will bring her the wider commercial success she so richly deserves.” And Belgian blogger Michel Preumont (concerts-review.over-blog.com) described it as “Original, acrobatique et audacieux … Un album brillant ouvrant de nouvelles perspectives pour Sarah McQuaid.” (“Original, acrobatic and audacious … A brilliant album that opens new perspectives for Sarah McQuaid”).
The album was officially launched on March 6th at the first concert on Sarah’s Netherlands-Belgium-Germany tour, where both the live album performance and the more relaxed second half (incorporating “greatest hits” from Sarah’s previous CDs as well as an encore rendition of Jerry Jeff Walker’s classic ‘Mr Bojangles’) earned a rapturous reception from the audience. They also earned an enthusiastic concert review from Richard Wagenaar of The Next Gig, who wrote: “McQuaid in topvorm stak. Mooi bij stem, warm en prachtig werden de nummers … Een magnifieke uitvoering” (“McQuaid was in top form. A beautiful voice, warm and wonderful songs … a magnificent performance”).
With at least one track (‘Jackdaws Rising’) that was described by album reviewer Theo Volk in Johnny’s Garden as “onmogelijk live te spelen” (“impossible to play live”), Sarah and her longtime collaborator, manager and sound engineer Martin Stansbury had to resort to a certain amount of technological trickery in order to bring the album to the stage.
“It’s all done live on the night,” Sarah explains, “but Martin has to do a lot from the desk end to make it happen. On ‘Low Winter Sun’, for example, before I start the song proper, I play a chord on the guitar which he samples and turns into a lovely lush wash of controlled feedback that turns up later in the song as a background and underpinning for the bell peal that I’m playing on the guitar.
“And on ‘Jackdaws Rising’, I start by laying down a 5/4 time stomp and handclap pattern that he turns into a percussion loop repeating through the song, while each part of the three-part round also loops until I get to the final repeat of the first part. It’s like walking a tightrope – incredibly difficult to get the timing right, but when it works it’s amazing!” (See https://youtu.be/ZcGNbm4yfD4 for a video of Sarah’s performance of ‘Jackdaws Rising’ at the aforementioned album launch show on March 6th in Steendam, Netherlands).
SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER US TOUR DATES CONFIRMED AS OF 30 JUNE 2015:
Thu Sep 3 – Omnova Theater, Columbus, MS
Fri Sep 4 – Back Door Coffeehouse, Hattiesburg, MS
Sat Sep 5 – House Concert, Mobile, AL
Sun Sep 6 – Greensboro Room @ Bama Theatre, Tuscaloosa, AL
Tue Sep 8 – House Concert, Marietta, OH
Wed Sep 9 – Free Range Concerts, Zionsville IN
Thu Sep 10 – Fowlerville District Library, Fowlerville, MI
Fri Sep 11 – Riviera Theatre, Three Rivers, MI
Sat Sep 12 – WFMT Folkstage, Chicago, IL
Sun Sep 13 – Stone House Concerts, Detroit, MI
Tue Sep 15 – House Concert, Frankfort, KY
Thu Sep 17 – Eddie Owen Presents @ The Red Clay Music Foundry, Duluth, GA
Fri Sep 18 – Music on the Square, Jonesborough, TN
Sat Sep 19 – Songs From The Wood, Deep Gap, NC
Sun Sep 20 – Shady Grove Coffeehouse, Glen Allen, VA
Thu Sep 24 – Bristol Public Library, Bristol, CT
Fri Sep 25 – Old Songs, Voorheesville, NY
Sat Sep 26 – Cornell Folk Song Society, Ithaca, NY
Wed Sep 30 – Fremont Public Library, Mundelein, IL
Thu Oct 1 – Lisle Public Library, Lisle, IL
Fri Oct 2 – The Focal Point, Maplewood, MO
Sat Oct 3 – Last Minute Folk, Topeka, KS
Sun Oct 4 – FolkHouse, Omaha, NE
Mon Oct 5 – Rapid City Public Library, Rapid City, SD
Wed Oct 7 – House Concert, St Marie’s, ID
Fri Oct 9 – Concerts in the Woods, Coyle, WA
Sat Oct 10 – Traditions Cafe, Olympia, WA
Mon Oct 12 – House Concert, Santa Cruz, CA
Tue Oct 13 – Fiddlers Crossing, Tehachapi, CA
Fri Oct 16 – San Diego Folk Heritage, San Diego, CA
Sat Oct 17 – The Living Tradition Concert Series, Anaheim, CA
Tue Oct 20 – Atrium Music Series, Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, AZ
Wed Oct 21 – Atrium Music Series, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ
Thu Oct 22 – Art Of The Song Concerts, Albuquerque, NM
Fri Oct 23 – HubCityMusic, Lubbock TX
Sat Oct 24 – Opening Bell, Dallas, TX