“The Day Before the Fair”…a phrase that implies baited breath, a buzz of activity, the expectation of a memorable event less than twenty-four hours away. It is this kind of atmosphere which has been kept in mind for the selection and arrangement of the pieces on this album. Perhaps the mental image of, say, a group of musicians rehearsing for tomorrow’s gig in a half-erected pavilion would be particularly appropriate – it would certainly reflect the fact that the songs and tunes contained therein are all “homemade” recordings – perhaps a little unpolished here and there, but nonetheless honest and brimming with enthusiasm. Opening with a driving acoustic folk-rock arrangement of Spancill Hill with especially-customized lyrics, the tracklist then takes a more sombre turn with two traditional ballads of unrequited love featuring atmospheric keyboards and haunting low whistles, before being uplifted by Jesse’s soaring original instrumental piece, Minyalindálë. This is followed by a mixture of traditional songs, including tragic Lord Franklin, passionate My Lagan Love and mischievous Gallant Soldier, mixed with a couple of rollicking Irish jigs; Fig for a Kiss and the oh-so-popular session favourite Jimmy Ward’s. From Ireland to Iceland, the cover of 2012 Eurovision contestant Greta Salóme’s dramatic composition Never Forget is a highlight of the album, as is the track it precedes; a rendition of the traditional instrumental piece Lough Erin Shore featuring mellifluous violin, sweet low whistle and soaring electric guitar. Wrapping up the album with two more tragic traditional ballads, including the powerful anti-war sentiment of Paddy’s Lament, it is finally finished off with the nostalgic and comforting lyrics of The Irish Blessing. Fueled by chocolate and mulled Swedish cider, Jesse recorded most of the album in his home studio during the cold Tasmanian winter, and perhaps, if one listens very carefully, the dancing of rain on the roof or windows or the crackling of the studio’s wood-heater may be heard in the background of some of the recordings…
01 Spancill Hill
02 Moorlough Shore
03 Black is the Colour
05 Her Mantle So Green/Fig For a Kiss
06 Lord Franklin
07 My Lagan Love
08 Gallant Soldier/Jimmy Ward’s
09 Never Forget
10 Lough Erin Shore
11 She Moved Through the Fair
12 Paddy´s Lament
13 The Irish Blessing
All music traditional, except track 4 (music by Jesse McCormack), and track 9 (music by Greta Salóme Stefánsdóttir). All lyrics traditional, except track 1 (lyrics traditional, adapted by Jesse McCormack), and track 9 (lyrics by Greta Salóme Stefánsdóttir).
Musicians: Jesse McCormack (vocals, keyboard, tin/low whistles, ukulele, Celtic bouzouki, dumbeg, 44 gallon drum), Alastair Hawkins (drums, bass guitar, electric guitar), Emily Sheppard (violin), David Humphries (cello), Matthew Dames (acoustic guitar).
Recording/mixing by Jesse McCormack. Mixing/mastering/additional recording by Ross Sermons.
Photography by Rachael Jessup, Jesse McCormack and Bec Howard, Celtic knot designed by Catherine Goldfinch.