Enter the Haggis definitely has the potential to be the leading Celtic rock band in the admittedly-small-but-growing genre. For those who missed their show March 20 in the Hive, there’s a chance to catch some of the energy of their live performances on the new album “Enter the Haggis – LIVE!”
The most obvious thing about the band is that they do not have the polished sound of such leading bands as Seven Nations – and this is their strongest aspect. While they have just as much talent as any other band, they sound much more authentic. This is crucial to any good live performance.
The Toronto-based band recorded the album this past April, and it is evenly split between songs and instrumental pieces. Unlike some bands that don’t know when to shut up, ETH almost doesn’t sing enough.
The only thing that could have made this album better is more singing, especially toward the end. ETH has excellent singers in both Brian Buchanan and transplanted Scotsman Craig Downie.
The opening number is the corny but amusing bagpipe medley of “Scotland the Brave/Hava Nagila.” The album then goes into the energetic Irish dance “Lanigan’s Ball.” This frenetic type of opening is ETH at its best.
“Crossing the Minch/Red Haired Boy” is a well-done traditional piece, and is followed by another great song, “Arthur McBride.” This remake of a traditional song sounds a lot like the upbeat remakes the Great Big Sea has been famous for, although ETH is better at it. “Maggie’s Pancake Mix” continues this trend for another song.
“Ride My Monster” is Downie’s proof that blatant innuendo somehow sounds more innocent in a Scots accent, while “Wild Mountain Thyme” is a slower, solid rendition of what would otherwise be an overdone song.
“Arcturus” is the instrumental highlight of the album, and it is the best arrangement of the classic reel “Tam-Lin” available anywhere. Following that is the true star of the album, “Star (of the County Down),” which gives all the members of the band a chance to show their talents.
The album ends with “Bagpipes on Mars” and two pipe reels, which, if not overly memorable, all carry the ETH energy through to the end.
Celtic rock can cover a wide range of music, from traditional songs to rearrangements to wholly new songs. ETH covers all these ranges in this album, as they did in their show in the Hive. Unlike a lot of other bands, however, they sound not merely comfortable with all these styles, but rather they stay at their best in any style.
Even people who don’t normally like bagpipes should try this album. Most Celtic bands have updated the sound of the bagpipes and whistle to modern rock music, but I can only wish that every band was this good at it. This is a great album from a band that is promising to get even better.
Brown can be reached at email@example.com.