- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

''The crowd almost rioted," says Seven Nations leader Kirk McLeod by phone of 1,600 fans' reaction to the band's traditional closer, "Amazing Grace," at a late-September show in Albany, N.Y. "We have a very large police and fire department following in the Northeast."
The band recorded its new, self-produced live album, "Live at the Palace," in Albany on St. Patrick's Day this year. On it the fans don't sound quite so, um, riotous, but then this was well before September 11. Even so, St. Patrick's Day is still a good date for a Celtic/rock band with two bagpipe players and a lead singer in a kilt. Monday is the day Seven Nations appears at the Birchmere bandstand.
Most notable about the live version of "Amazing Grace" is that not once does the band sing it's all audience participation. It opens with a steady rock beat from new "funky" drummer Crisco, then Scott Long's pipes and Dan Stacey's fiddle kick in. The closing jam is reminiscent of the Who's "Baba O'Riley," which isn't a bad Celtic name either.
Seven Nations returned to their birthplace in early November when they played the opening ceremonies of the New York City Marathon. "I was a New Yorker for nine years, and it was good to be back," says Mr. McLeod. "We tried to help motivate the runners … a lot of them had other people's goals in mind, you know?"
The post-September 11 crowd reaction to "Amazing Grace" has been "pretty heavy," Mr. McLeod admits. "At the Marathon we didn't even do it, because we didn't want to go there."
The other cover the Florida-based band plays is the Church's mellow hit "Under The Milky Way." For part of the song, the Church "had taken a bagpipe that was slightly out of tune … then they like quadruple-tracked it, and added a bunch of effects," says Mr. McLeod. "We took it and actually made a bagpipe solo out of it … to try to give it a chance on a bagpipe for real."
"Milky Way" starts off mellow, though with uptempo violin and guitar, and Mr. McLeod's vocals add some angst before the bagpipe solo and a final descent into Celtic thrash.
Aside from perhaps Black 47, there's little in the United States to compare musically with Seven Nations. They have the same sound (and management) as Nova Scotia's MacKeel, known for mixing heavy metal with bagpipes and violin. "We know each other," admits Mr. McLeod, who has played the pipes himself since age 11.
Mr. Long grew up in Nova Scotia's Celtic community, guested on a MacKeel album, and toured with Canadian fiddler Ashley MacIsaac for four years. Mr. Stacey is from Ontario and has titles in both fiddling and Canadian step dancing. Bassist Struby grew up in Florida and co-founded Seven Nations with Mr. McLeod in 1994.
However, Mr. McLeod doesn't consider Seven Nations a Celtic band, as they mix other styles as well. "But, you know, Celtic's in our blood, so it's a tough call."
He's right about the blood. The band draws its name from the traditional seven Celtic nations: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, the Isle of Man and Galicia. And Mr. McLeod does wear a kilt onstage, as well as in the photo for the band's recent profile for Dewar's Scotch.
The band has a new CD "half-finished," Mr. McLeod says, and expects to complete it in March or April by the time they finish label negotiations perhaps even by next St. Patrick's Day.
"You know what we're gonna do different at the Birchmere this year?" Mr. McLeod says. "The first set totally acoustically … we're just gonna talk to the audience and see what they wanna do. Then we'll take a break, and the second show will rock out."
But does "acoustic" still include bagpipes?
"Oh, yeah."

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