ENTER THE HAGGIS
Album review: "Whitelake"
By Mike Joyce
Friday, Mar. 9, 2012
In true indie spirit, Toronto band Enter the Haggis threw a fundraiser to pay for the recording of its new album, "Whitelake." Money well spent, as it turns out, for the album celebrates the quintet's Celtic roots and ever-growing contemporary influences with fresh colors and renewed vitality.
Opening track "Headlights I & II" is a beautifully harmonized road song, part rueful reflection ("Sometimes I think we are drowning / in the pond of our youth"), part restless anthem ("We know we can't / no we can never slow down"). Self-awareness gives way to social commentary in "Devil's Son," a ballad inspired by the suicide of fraudster Bernie Madoff's son in 2010. Unfortunately, it's one of the few miscues, with the pathos poured on thick: "Down, down, down / on my own / come on hang the devil's son / I'll die alone."
That song is no match for "Whistleblower," which concerns a child soldier's soul-shattering plight, or the band's rousing version of Stan Rogers's ballad "White Squall." Two sharply contrasting tracks are another plus: "The Hunter and the Phantom Limb," a resonating blues tune, and "Let Me Go," an engaging bit of Crescent City-flavored funk.
"Haggis Heads" shouldn't fear ETH's newly expanded arsenal of instruments, with its flashes of mandolin, ukulele and accordion. The tweaked sonics add to the album's charms without obscuring the familiar roots-to-rock blend of pipes, fiddle, guitar, bass and percussion.