june 2009

Enter The Haggis Gutter AnthemsGUTTER ANTHEMS
Enter the Haggis
United for Opportunity

Celtic rock emanating from a Canadian base, the music advanced by the quintet calling itself Enter the Haggis bears some slight spiritual kinship to the Pogues' sense of the muck and mire (note the album title) and embraces the rock punch of those wild and crazy Dropkick Murpheys fellows. Those are touchstones, but Enter the Haggis is otherwise its own entity with a singular approach to Celtic music. When they stand up for a fallen comrade—in this case the gifted Canadian fiddler Johnny Mooring in "The Death of Johnny Mooring"—they unleash a full-on assault of hard rock proportions, with a brutal guitar assault, crashing drums, a heavy organ backdrop and Brian Buchanan supporting his plaintive, crying vocal with blood-curdling fiddle protests. They can follow this anguished fullisade with a moment of affecting tenderness, in a gentle, lilting reminiscence of carefree youth, "Suburban Plains," a tune that floats along breezily on wings of fanciful Rhodes fills, an airy, flittering tin whistle, delicate acoustic guitar strums and Trevor Lewington's affecting, sandpapery vocal. In fact, over the course of Enter the Haggis it's these reflective moments that bring out both their most Irish and most sensitive sides at once. Brian Buchanan's seven-and-a-half-minute epic, "Real Life/Alibis," affects some '80s power ballad emoting in Buchanan's plaintive upper register tenor delivering a tale about denial and rootlessness, and certainly in the musical transition that occurs about halfway through when it kicks into musical overdrive behind stuttering rock guitars and a wailing Highland bagpipe(!). "Sea of Crutches" breaks into a rocking country lope as Buchanan describes an aimless but searching existence that might find reason with the appearance of a certain someone—"Then I see you and I am home again...And I can handle this insanity"—whose voice is articulated in Maria Mulholland's keening backing vocal. Beyond their own experiences, the band members go boldly into a past they can only imagine, with striking results. Lewington's "The Ghosts of Calico" is set in the California ghost town referenced in the title, and recounts the tragic tale of a silver miner who died seeking his fortune there, and whose spirit toils on in the shadow world, still seeking the treasure it never found in life, all unfolding against a musical backdrop of shifting textures shaped by furiously driving guitars, a wailing harmonica, thundering drums and Lewington's dramatic singing. Closing the album on a spacey, jazzy note, the jittery "Broken Line" honors a revolt by some London, Ontario, landowners in 1957, who mounted an ultimately successful 30-year protest against and legal challenge to pipeline construction that damaged their soil; prevailing in court, their case resulted in changes in pipeline construction designed to protect the land. Most of the last two minutes of the near-five-minute song are given over to an elegant, Classically-oriented cello and piano duet that opens up into a spacious dialogue with the bagpipe, fiddle and guitars all at once, a glorious celebration of the triumph of conscience and principle over profit that needs no further words to announce its purpose—any more than Enter the Haggis need say more about its own raison d'etre. There's something happening here... —David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024