Like Kirk McLeod says, "How many bands do you know who use bagpipes the way Jimmy Page uses his guitar?"
Well, none, really. Sitting around in the basement with your plaid bladder full of air, trying desperately to keep up with "Misty Mountain Hop"... not a common scene in the development of most American rock stars. Unless, of course, you happen to be Mr. McLeod, who is the founder of Seven Nations.
McLeod went to piping school as a child and decided to put that education to good use in 1994. He formed Clan Na Gael with Jim Struble and Neil Anderson in New York City, later adding drummer Nick Watson and changing the name to Seven Nations.
The music and the lineup have changed considerably since then. Anderson left, and Watson was replaced with Ashton Geoghagan in 1997. Struble began playing bass, and Scott Long came along to help out on the pipes. Dan Stacey not only took the role of fiddle player, but also as official band stepdancer.
McLeod dropped the bagpipes for an acoustic 12-string and an electric guitar. It was his interest in modern rock bands, a la the Foo Fighters, that resulted in a shift from more traditional Celtic music to an original rock sound that samples from the instruments, songs and melodies of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The driving guitars and thoroughly rock lyrics are massaged and enhanced by competent fiddling, great vocal harmonies and the drone of the pipes. This intelligent blending of old and new is something akin to what the Dave Matthews Band might sound like had they been raised in North Tipperary. The body sways a little bit in time, the ears pay attention to the words and the soul is better off by the end of the night.
Do yourself a favor and catch Seven Nations at the Fine Arts Center on Saturday night.
-- Kristen Sherwood