Seven Nations

And Now It's Come to This

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Why anyone would hire full-time bagpipe and fiddle players and use them only for subtle background coloring is unclear, but that's the case on Seven Nations' sixth album. The band's first release on a major indie is an inoffensive, often bland sub-Waterboys affair, very definitely led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Kirk McLeod, who wrote every track. The bagpipes that should infuse a distinctive sound only appear on a few tracks, where they are less than completely successful in making an impact on the overall approach. Without listening closely, it is difficult to distinguish the pipes, since they are often sunk so far down in the commercial mix as to be nearly inaudible. But when they take the lead on "Up to Me," spearheading the charge of chunky electric guitar and sawing fiddle, the band's sound solidifies. Unfortunately, all the unique instrumentation won't compensate for the weak songs that ultimately ground this album. McLeod aims for epics of the Big Country variety, but is hamstrung by trite lyrics and a voice that sounds forced as it attempts to reach for the rafters. Far better is the violin-led instrumental "Jump Start," which avoids words and vocals altogether and works up a slick but rather funky Celtic-rock groove. The best is saved for the closing track, the appropriately titled "Last Call," which thrusts the bagpipes and fiddle into a Pogues-ish punk whirlpool. Finally everyone sounds enthused, an emotion not felt through the majority of the album. This band deserves stronger songs and a punchier production to showcase its unusual lineup. Instead, Seven Nations plays it safe and doesn't rise to the occasion.

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