by John Ross
It may be more than three decades since legendary Scottish rock band Big Country first struck a chord, but the music is still finding new audiences.
The band who are touring this year with a revised line-up and a new frontman, also return to the big screen with one of their biggest tracks featuring in the new film Land Ho.
Set in Iceland, the film tells the story of a disenchanted retired surgeon who takes a road trip through Reykjavik with his former brother-in-law, in an attempt to reclaim their youth against a soundtrack which includes the band’s ‘80s hit In A Big Country.
The film and the soundtrack have won critical acclaim and will bring Big County’s music to a new generation.
“The film company basically got in touch and sent us a synopsis of the film”, said guitarist Bruce Watson, a founder member of the band. “We liked it and told them to use it.”
It was Bruce, and his friend from Dunfermline, the late Stuart Adamson, who formed Big Country in 1981. They were joined later that summer by drummer Mark Brzezicki and bass player Tony Butler, the line-up that recorded the classic debut album The Crossing in 1983.
The group were known for a string of hits such as In A Big Country, Fields of Fire, East of Eden and, the biggest UK hit, Look Away. In all they scored 17 top 30 singles in the UK and achieved five gold and platinum albums.
Adamson died in 2001 and the band subsequently reformed to mark their 25th anniversary, later joined by former Alarm singer Mike Peters who spent three years as frontman.
The new line-up sees Bruce, Mark Brzezicki (drums, vocals), Bruce’s son, Jamie Watson (guitars/vocals) and former Simple Minds bassist/vocalist, Derek Forbes, joined by Simon Hough, ex-frontman for both Denny Laine (Wings) and Eric Bell (Thin Lizzy).
The band have already played a number of UK dates this year, with a series of festivals planned, including a debut at the Hebridean Celtic Festival next week, and then the Steeltown Tour, to mark the 30th anniversary of the Steeltown album release.
“It’s been a great year so far,” said Bruce. “Simon has fitted in well and the fans are really getting into his vocals. At times he sounds uncannily like Stuart.
“We just love working now with the new line up. We spent years not being Big Country and have a large catalogue to get through.”
He said he is looking forward to the festivals experience which is such a large part of a band’s schedule nowadays: “Festivals are always chaotic, basically wham bam, no sound check, hour long set then you are off. Then the next band goes on. It’s great fun and I do like to watch other acts.
“I am happy playing as many festivals as we can. HebCelt is a first for us so I can't wait to get up there and make a noise. We are really looking forward to playing in this beautiful part of the country. “
So what’s next for the re-invented band? Is he preparing for a 40th anniversary? “Steady, we have only just got back together and are still finding our feet.”
Big Country will top the HebCelt bill next Friday (July 18). The award-winning festival runs from Wednesday to next Sunday in Stornoway and will also feature headliners Levellers and Donnie Munro as well as leading artists including Cara Dillon, Rachel Sermanni, Duncan Chisholm, Cajun band Magnolia Sisters, from the US, and Canadian outfit Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys.
The festival has its two main stages in the spectacular setting in front of Lews Castle in Stornoway, and this year is introducing an acoustic stage for the first time. There will also be concerts in An Lanntair arts centre and in rural parts of Lewis and Harris.
The four-day festival is expected to attract an audience of about 16,000 – double the population of Stornoway – with more than half coming from outside the Hebrides and helping to generate around £1 million for the local economy.