(Virgin Music Canada, 2001)
After making fans wait four long years, Leahy finally released their second album, named after their hometown of Lakefield, Ontario. For those not familiar with Leahy, the group comprises nine brothers and sisters, all of whom are top-notch, multi-talented musicians that truly enjoy their craft. On their self-titled debut, the instrumental songs focused on brother Donnell's amazing fiddle-playing. On Lakefield, they have attempted to conquer the pop-music charts, complete with -- gasp! -- vocal tracks.
While the last album was mostly traditional medleys, most of Lakefield's tunes are composed by the band. This is quite a brave move for Leahy -- I was especially surprised by the appearance of vocal tracks. I knew they could sing well for I had seen them do it in live performances (which are outstanding). The energy and pure joy in performing still comes through in many of the songs. But the shock really came when I heard them on the Canadian radio stations. "Down That Road" received considerable airplay and the music video was a mainstay on Canadian music channels. It is an uplifting, bouncy pop-song, the first Leahy song to feature electric guitars and people singing "doodoo-doodoo-doodoo."
Other lively vocal tracks include "Moment" and "Stand Up." The melodies really stick in your head, and I often find myself humming them for days afterward. There are some slower tracks as well, most notably the delicately religious "A Love Never Known" and "Borrowed Time," an incredibly touching song about losing a loved one to cancer. Songs like this are the biggest steps for the band creatively. The harmonies are superb (think Ennis Sisters), though the lyrics show room for growth in some of the songs.
Leahy has not completely forsaken their past -- six of Lakefield's 12 tracks are instrumentals. While a few seem to be slightly-tweaked clones of previous tunes, some really shine brightly. There is the blazing "Mission" (also made into a video), the passionate "Skater" and the aptly titled "Leviathan," which features a tension-building intro similar to the popular "Call to Dance" from the previous album. The fiddling is out of this world, and Erin gets a lot more (well-deserved) attention on the piano this time around. The biggest difference in Lakefield's instrumentals is that they are much more like full-blown spectacles compared to the flash-in-the-pan feeling of the debut album's songs.
There is no doubt Leahy set the bar incredibly high with their recording debut, and honestly I still believe that it has something that Lakefield doesn't capture. However, I have to admire their desire to push themselves in new and challenging directions. They are still without a doubt one of the most talented bands in Canada, and offer a proudly Canadian sound to the genre of Celtic-pop music.