The album ‘Upcountry‘ combines songs that lean towards Americana, blues and even country with more ‘traditional’ material including settings of verse by Housman, Kipling and Yeats, plus a couple of songs about Cornwall, where I now live. All songs by me except where noted.
1. A Smuggler’s Song (Kipling-Harley) 03:14
2. Wearing Out My Shoes 02:26
3. This Guitar (Just Plays The Blues) 02:17
4. Cornish Ghosts 03:39
5. Hannah’s Gone Upcountry 03:44
6. The Road To Frenchman’s Creek 03:27
7. Whistle While You Walk 03:53
8. Janey 03:22
9. Gooseberry Blues 01:48
10. Aftermath/Postcards 05:29
11. Anywhere 03:12
12. A Rainy Day Blues 02:24
13. Tears of Morning (Housman-Harley) 02:46
14. The Wild Swans at Coole (Yeats-Harley) 06:33
15. The Pilgrim (Yeats-Harley) 02:24
16. Woods In Moonlight 05:22
As this isn’t a commercial site, I don’t usually recycle press releases, but the launch of Sarah McQuaid’s new album and two other gigs locally will interest an awful lot of people hereabouts. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing the whole album.
Benefit Gig in St Buryan Church Marks Launch Of New Album By Cornwall-Based Singer-Songwriter Sarah McQuaid
The new solo album by award-winning Cornwall-based singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid will be launched on 15 October with a very special benefit concert in – and for – St Buryan Church, where the album and its accompanying video series were recorded and filmed.
Born out of the pandemic, The St Buryan Sessions is Sarah’s sixth solo album, and is her most powerful and emotive offering yet. It had its genesis in the spring of 2020, when Sarah’s gigs and tours were cancelled due to COVID-19.
Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, she was able to finance a live solo recording (sans audience) in the lovely medieval church of St Buryan, not far from her home in rural West Cornwall.
“I’ve been living in St Buryan for fourteen years now,” Sarah explains, “and it’s been incredibly heartwarming how my family and I have been welcomed into the life of the village. I kind of thought when we first moved here that we’d be shunned as ‘blow-ins’, but that hasn’t been the case at all, and I’m so grateful.
“I’m also incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to record the new album in such a gorgeous space, and I really wanted to be able to give something back.”
The launch takes place on the album’s worldwide release day, Friday, October 15. In order to make it accessible for all in the local community, no entrance fee will be charged, but there will be a voluntary retiring collection for church funds.
“We are absolutely thrilled,” says churchwarden Fiona Vinnicombe. “The Parochial Church Council is hugely indebted to Sarah for suggesting the concert in aid of maintaining our wonderful historical building as well as its work and ministry within the community.
“We’ve recently completed the renovation of the tower, along with the installation of a kitchen area and toilet so that the whole community can use and benefit from this magnificent building in the centre of the village.
“This project cost us £180K, which was all funded by grants, donations and many fundraising events. Apart from these major projects, we need to raise £900 every month just to pay our utility bills and general expenses for running the church.
“We are always so grateful for any help we can get, and particularly from a performer of such high calibre.”
Two further Cornwall dates feature later in the six-week, 21-date tour that follows the launch: Praa Sands Community Centre on Saturday 30 October and Sterts Studio near Liskeard on Sunday 28 November.
Conceived as a concert set and including such fan favourites as “In Derby Cathedral”, “The Sun Goes On Rising” and “Yellowstone”, the album is a journey not only through a wide range of instrumentation and styles, but also through the spectrum of emotions that Sarah evokes in her performance and invokes in the listener.
Sensitively captured by her longtime sound engineer and manager, Martin Stansbury, with the aid of ambient microphones placed throughout the church, the sound of Sarah’s voice and music soars through the stunning acoustic space as she moves between acoustic guitar, piano, electric guitar and floor tom drum, performing songs that span her 24-year career – from “Charlie’s Gone Home”, originally recorded on her 1997 debut album When Two Lovers Meet, to electric guitar based pieces from her most recent studio album If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous.
Two previously unrecorded covers feature on the album: the classic jazz standard “Autumn Leaves”, on which she demonstrates the full dynamic range of her lush, distinctive voice, and a cover of “Rabbit Hills”, written by her dear friend (and past producer) Michael Chapman.
This second piece was commissioned by Michael’s wife as a gift for his 80th birthday and sees Sarah at the beautiful grand piano that resides in the church, her compelling, heartfelt delivery revealing the depth of her immersion in the rich imagery of Chapman’s evocative lyrics.
“I’m particularly indebted to the St Buryan Male Voice Choir for giving me permission to use their gorgeous Yamaha concert grand for the recording,” adds Sarah. “It was left to them in a bequest and it’s such a fantastic instrument to play. I wish I could take it on tour with me!”
The recording was filmed by Cornish filmmaker and director Mawgan Lewis of Purple Knif with the aid of Eden Sessions veteran camera operator John Crooks. The fruits of their work can be seen on Sarah’s YouTube channel – https://youtube.com/sarahmcquaid — where Lewis’ 9-minute documentary “The Making Of The St Buryan Sessions”, featuring interviews and song snippets, can also be viewed, along with a 59-second promo video about the album and tour.
The St Buryan Sessions is now available to pre-order via https://sarahmcquaid.bandcamp.com on CD and limited-edition blue vinyl double LP, together with T-shirts, tea towels, tote bags, ultra-limited-edition test pressings, and the full concert film on a 16GB engraved wooden USB stick, all bearing Sarah’s original artwork.
A six-week UK-wide tour will follow the album launch and continue through the end of November. Sarah’s 2022 tour plans include the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and the USA. See https://sarahmcquaid.com/tour for details of all shows.
High-resolution photos and album cover artwork are available for download from https://sarahmcquaid.com/media-kit – also see https://sarahmcquaid.com/about for full biog. Download links for the album (including a 12-page PDF booklet with credits and other information) and hard copy CDs are available on request.
See https://www.stburyanchurch.org.uk for contacts and further information about St Buryan Church.
I wasn’t particularly planning to do any more Housman settings, but this one suddenly demanded my attention. It does require more work – some guitar, at least – but I think the melody is mostly there. And if you’re going to set Housman, I suppose you have to consider the ‘Land of lost content’. And having (half) done this one, there are two or three more I think I’d still like to put music to. We’ll see.
‘A Shropshire Lad’ XL
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.