The Magnificent 7s All Kinds of Mean

The Magnificent 7s All Kinds of Mean
"Progressive bluegrass" sounds like a fake genre invented by Wikipedia; it's hard to imagine the uniquely rural, upbeat, banjo- and fiddle-led country offshoot needing or wanting much progression. And yet here we have All Kinds of Mean, the sophomore album from the Magnificent 7s. On the surface, it's apparently bluegrass, particularly on "Needle in the Hay" and "The Hammer," which recall the early days of Bill Monroe in style and tone. But there is a sense of progression – new corners of bluegrass the Winnipeg band find again and again. They reinvent and rave-up an underrated Neil Young tune ("Unknown Legend"), bring some literal fire and brimstone ("The Rapture"), and offer a haunting original, "Travelin' Song," which evokes not Kentucky but the flat Canadian prairies. Approaching the album with an above-average knowledge of its roots let's one appreciate what Magnificent 7s are trying to do better than your average Joe – to some, this may sound like imitation and nothing more. But beneath the goofy cover art and press photos that present the band as some kind of hillbilly biker gang, there's artistry and, more importantly, a respect for bluegrass music that goes beyond mere homage. (Transistor 66)