Review Summary: Rainy songs for rainy days.
When you’re a bartender in New York who wants to add to his side project to create a full band, what do you do? If you’re Kirk McLeod, you gather some old buddies and start playing gigs at the local bars. However, one critical key point separated McLeod’s band from others. Soon, McLeod introduced what is now his band’s trademark instrument to the show: The bagpipe.
What do you mean, everyone hates bagpipes?
Well it’s evident that you haven’t listened to Seven Nations before.
The original name of the band was Clan Na Gael, but, believe it or not, apparently there was another band out there who had already reserved the name (You’d think that a name like “Clan Na Gael” wouldn’t be a popular band name, but hey). So, they adopted the moniker of Seven Nations, in reference to the original seven Celtic Nations. After gaining some local popularity, the band got their hands on some recording equipment, and recorded their first album: Rain and Thunder
. And, as the name may suggest, Rain and Thunder
is filled with down-tempo, melancholy songs that just seem to sound rainy.
One intriguing aspect of this album is not hard to miss at all: the recording quality. The sound of the recordings conjure up an image of Seven Nations digging around an old, dusty attic and happening upon an old, dusty box full of old, dusty microphones, which they used to record the album in an old, dusty garage. With the top notch, digitalized, hi-tech microphones of today dominating music, listening to an album recorded on old, dusty microphones can take a little getting used to. However, by the end of the album, you’ll have almost forgotten that feature. In fact, the old, dusty quality adds to the overall rainy sound of the album.
Most of Rain and Thunder
consists of covers of Celtic songs recorded by artists prior to Rain and Thunder
. Classics such as “Back Home In Derry,” “From Clare To Here,” and “Faithful Departed” make appearances. Of course, a number of originals appear on the record as well. One might say that an album with covers on it is a so-called “cover album,” and nothing more. Yet, Rain and Thunder
seems to be so much more. The placement of songs on the album seems to tell a story that is so often told by Irish singers: the immigration from Ireland to the United States. This shows that Seven Nations, although they wrote about half of the songs (with lyrics) on the album, had a direction they were aiming for in their music. Stand out tracks include “Rain and Thunder” (that is, the song) and “For James.” Of course, Seven Nations uses more that words to narrate their story. Nearly half of the album comprises of traditional Irish instrumental tunes, a staple in Seven Nations’ music. One of the best of these is the Whistle Set, a lighthearted collection of tunes.
Unfortunately, the album does have its share of downsides, though they number relatively few. Although the recording quality isn’t exactly a subtraction from the overall quality of the album, the songs do seem to blend each other. When looking back on the experience, although the album has good songs on it, very little seems to differentiate Track A from Track B. Moreover, there is little to no drums or percussion in this mostly acoustic album, giving the album a really gloomy, Iron and Wine-ish sound. That’s not bad per say, but the tracks seem to bleed through each other. Moreover, Seven Nations tends to stick occasional bagpipe solos throughout the album as filler, but, despite being well performed and entertaining, they feel disjointed from the other tracks, and interrupt the flow of the record.
All in all though, Rain and Thunder
really is an enjoyable album, if not perfect. Many of the mistakes made on this one will be corrected on Old Ground
, their next effort. Rain and Thunder
really is simply a collection of rainy songs for rainy days, and is definitely worth a listen.
Back Home In Derry
Rain and Thunder