STORY WRITTEN BY CHRIS CAMERON
For Digital First Media
The Canadian rock band Enter The Haggis (ETH) is returning to its Celtic roots and recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with “Cheers and Echoes,” a 22-song double disc retrospective drawing from their eight studio albums.
Singer and multi-instrumentalist, Brian Buchanan, relocated to Chestnut Hill partly due to his love of Celtic music and to be closer to a fiddler from the area.
“I fell in love with a girl [Rose Baldino] who’s a fiddle player for Burning Bridget Cleary,” Buchanan said. “We ended up recording demos for our new album at [her father’s house] outside Harleysville.
“Going back and listening to our past music for ‘Cheers and Echoes,’ I realized that I played exclusively electric guitar. Rose and I went to Ireland to immerse ourselves in Irish music and it rekindled my passion for it and the fiddle.”
Enter The Haggis is a wacky, but memorable band name and it reflects the band’s blend of influences, similar to the Scottish food. For their “Penny Black” and “Penny Red” albums the band changed its name to the Jubilee Riots based on the Protestant-Catholic sectarian violence that erupted in Toronto in 1875. But the band has since changed back to Enter The Haggis and plans to keep the name for good.
“The name puts a certain image in people’s minds before they even hear us play,” Buchanan said. “But when we put out the retrospective, there was no way we could release it as anything but Enter The Haggis; our new music was a return to our Celtic sound so Jubilee Riots became its own little project. I apologize to our fans that got Jubilee Riots tattoos.”
“Cheers and Echoes” opens with a new original “Mrs. Elliot” that showcases the band’s signature sound and instrumentation, highlighting their return to Celtic rock.
“We didn’t want the album to be a greatest hits release; we wanted to show the evolution of the band,” Buchanan said. “It was cool going back and revisiting all those albums and we ended up adding songs to our set-list that we hadn’t played in years.”
In the liner notes of the album, the band reflects on some of the stories surrounding the albums, like the one about how Buchanan flipped his canoe on White Lake in Northern Ontario on a particularly frigid March day and he had to limp back two miles soggy and frozen to the band’s recording cabin.
“That was a defining moment during the recording so we decided to call that album ‘Whitelake.’ I was by myself and there wasn’t any cellphone reception.”
They’ve released concept albums — “The Modest Revolution” was based on stories found in one edition of their hometown newspaper, Toronto’s “Globe and Mail.” While “Penny Black” took its inspirations from stories sent to them by fans.
“We didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves with a third concept album,” he said. “They were nice to focus around particular themes, but if you do them every time it becomes gimmicky.”
Buchanan admitted that ETH does some of its most extensive touring around St. Patrick’s Day, but he’s fine with that.
“Any band with a bagpipe and a fiddle player in it will tell you that St. Patrick’s Day lasts pretty much all of March,” he said.
ETH has a reputation for touring extensively and has built a legion of die-hard fans known as Haggis Heads. They released three albums via crowdfunding. They plan to release a new album later this year.
“There’s no pressure with this one,” Buchanan said. “It won’t be crowdfunded — we’re going really indie. It was recorded in our drummer’s basement. It’s been fun to make a garage band type recording. When we did our last album I had a studio full of toys that allowed me to run with pretty much any idea. Not having all those instruments and digital equipment at your disposal means you have to be creative with what you have.”
The band does have a penchant for dramatic sounds, so it’s safe to say that the new release won’t be mistaken for a quiet folk album.
Enter The Haggis is Craig Downie on bagpipes, harmonica, guitar; Mark Abraham on bass, banjo, and vocals; Bruce McCarthy on drums; Trevor Lewington on vocals, guitar, and banjo; and Brian Buchanan on vocals, guitar, and fiddle.