Enchanted Forest was funded with assistance from Arts Tasmania and the Minister for the Arts, the generousity of Lola Hiles, and pledges from the following crowdfunders:
Adi Ashur, John Baily, John and Sue Brigginshaw, Coby Brown, Jill van den Bosch, Sarah Calderwood, Gwen Cooper, Yasmin Donnelly, Amy Edler, Judith Gunnarsson, Peter Geale, Ginger Hansen, Merrily Hansen, Georgia Heiniger, Michael Horton, Colin and Gabrielle Jessup, Kasper Knårsfis, Monique Lisbon, Matthew Lykos, Kerrie Maguire, Reuben McCormack, Tim and Karin McCormack, Lyn McLeavy, Kim Sebbage, Catherine Smith, Source Community Wholefoods, Clare Parry, Lucas and Rachael Parry, Julie Wescombe, and many more anonymous kind folks…you know who you are!
“As a child,” writes Jesse McCormack, “my imagination – like that of so many other children – was awakened and fuelled by stories of magical adventures, chronicles of heroic quests, fairy tales, myths, and legends…this project is an attempt to map out some aspects of my over-active imagination”. A most accurate statement indeed, as Enchanted Forest, Jesse’s second studio album, is arguably his most imaginative creative project of any kind – musical or otherwise – to date. Its songs and tunes convey, like his debut album The Day Before the Fair, an instantly unmistakable Celtic flavour, but the more attentive ear will notice a strong infusion of contemporary pop, occasional lashings of symphonic rock, tangy affectations of traditional Swedish fiddling, subtly majestic undertones of classical strings, and the occasional hints of clashing jazz notes. However, such diversity of musical styling is not only due to Jesse’s imaginative ambition, but also to the wide range of source material he took the project’s songs and tunes from. There are plenty of traditional Celtic pieces in the tracklist, including a thousand-year-old hornpipe, Return From Fingal, and a new version of My Lagan Love, differing dramatically from the version on Fair. A tune from the repertoire of Irish folk/pop family band The Corrs makes an appearance early on as the album’s first cover. All the other composers who Jesse tributes in this project are Canadian: a bard who often writes about history and mythology, a well-know pop/rock artist, and of course, Jesse’s musical hero Loreena McKennitt, who’s musical setting of the WB Yeats poem Stolen Child, was a very appropriate selection for an album with historical and mythological themes. The remaining tracks on the album are directly from Jesse’s own imagination, and explore the ideas of unrequited love, bromance, and confronting the dark side of the human psyche.
The diverse styles present in Enchanted Forest‘s arrangements are also due to the variety of creative backgrounds of the album’s guest musicians and crew members. Already representing enough diversity between just the two of them are the guests returning from the line-up of Fair: Emily Sheppard, classically-trained at the Victorian College of the Arts, and Alastair Hawkins, with whom Jesse has collaborated for many years, self-teaching themselves to make interesting and unconventional noises in a shed slowly being consumed by passionfruit vines. Having developed an unexpected professional relationship with Tasmanian black metal band Atra Vetosus in the few years prior to releasing the album, Jesse recruited two of their members to add some punch to Enchanted Forest in the form of drummer Josef Bound’s rhythmic genius, and lead singer Josh Gee’s striking photography skills, the results of which adorn almost every page of the CD’s lyric booklet. Lending her warm, jazz-influenced harping to a few of the tracks, Claire Patti adds an undeniable magical quality to key moments throughout the album, while fellow Melbournians Merrily and Ginger Hansen, who grew up singing in choirs, contribute their gorgeous vocal harmonies to Jesse’s original song The Bonny Actress. London-based atmospheric electric cellist Jo Quail managed to squeeze a recording session into her schedule during her 2017 Australian tour, and the rich intensity of her playing is a highlight of the album. The recording is mixed by Paul Anstey, AKA electronica/drum ‘n’ bass/metal recording artist Bloma, whom Jesse met at a midnight winter solstice gathering in a forest behind the western suburbs of Hobart. Paul’s expertise in electronic music, an unusual angle to approach the mixing of a folk album from, nevertheless complements and bundles together the vast range of playing styles featured in Enchanted Forest with lush proficiency. For listeners who prefer tangible items to downloads or streaming, or those who enjoy reading why artists choose particular songs or tunes for their recorded projects, all of this comes packaged up in CD format featuring not only a short blurb from Jesse explaining the background of each track, but also a selection of beautiful illustrations of mythical creatures drawn by German artist Martin Kepler, which add a lavish mystique to the project. Combined with the aforementioned photography skills of Josh Gee, and Jesse’s own photomanipulation creativity on the front cover, it makes the entire project a feast for the eyes as well as the ears, and – hopefully – a catalyst for the awakening of many more imaginations…
01 The Star of the County Down
02 Banks of Claudy
03 Paddy McCarthy
04 Come By the Hills
05 Stolen Child
06 The Refusal
07 Bua ag Cluain Tarbh
08 The Maiden and the Selkie
09 My Lagan Love
10 The Bonny Actress
11 Shining Branches
12 Keep Holding On
13 Last Night’s Musings
Musicians: Jesse McCormack (vocals, keyboard, tin/low whistles, Celtic bouzouki, bass guitar, dumbeg, ukulele), Emily Sheppard (violin, viola), Alastair Hawkins (electric guitar, 12-string guitar, bass guitar), Jo Quail (electric cello), Josef Bound (drums), Claire Patti (harp), Merrily Hansen (vocals, flute), Ginger Hansen (vocals).
Produced, Arranged, and Recorded by Jesse McCormack. Additional arranging by Emily Sheppard and Claire Patti. Mixed by Paul Anstey. Mastered by Bob Macciochi.
Principal photography by Josh Gee. Additional photography and photomanipulation by Jesse McCormack. Illustration by Martin Kepler. Mythical creature models: Kristoffer Ljungdahl, Towe Gustavsson, Nick Knowles, Jahn Walters, Laurence Farr, Melanie Schulze, Misha Martinović. Costume design by Jesse McCormack and Patricia McCormack.