Country's first studio album for four years, "Driving To Damascus",
combines all the elements that originally elevated the band into
the charts in the mid-Eighties. These, along with a new found
stylistic diversity stemming from Stuart Adamson's relocation
to Nashville where he has immersed himself in the bluegrass and
country community and scene over the last couple of years.
Its the first time I’ve ever lived in a totally creative community
he comments, and the first time I have ever co-written with other
artists. Last year Stuart (who is spiritual but not religious),
played signature guitar on Randy Stonehill's No 1 Christian record
The Face of God, sang on Darryl Scott's messed up bluegrass record
and has recently been writing with Texan out and out country singer
As co-founder member with Richard Jobson of seminal new wavers
the Skids, Stuart first tasted success with songs such as Into
The Valley, Masquerade, Charade and Working for the Yankee Dollar.
The nucleus of Big Country was formed after the demise of the
Skids when Stuart recruited guitar partner Bruce Watson from a
day job cleaning nuclear submarines in Dunfermline. They came
across the invincible rhythm section of Tony Butler and Mark Brzezecki
when they cut their first Big Country demos and soon signed to
Phonogram, released their first single and supported The Jam at
Wembley for six nights on their farewell dates.
The band broke massively worldwide with their debut album The
Crossing (1983), which sold over 3 million copies and earned Big
Country 2 Grammy nominations. Their subsequent four albums, Steeltown
(1984), The Seer (1985), Peace In Our Time (1986) and No Place
Like Home (1988) were all certified gold on release and took the
bands total record sales tally to over ten million.
Big Country played at the Wembley Live Aid and The Princes Trust
10th Birthday Party and in 1988 they played the first ever privately
promoted gig in Russia at the Moscow Sports Stadium. At the end
of the decade Through A Big Country, featuring all the bands classic
hits was released and while it charted Top 5 nationwide and sold
over two million copies, the group parted company with Phonogram
after massive personnel changes at the label. In 1992 Big Country
signed to Compulsion, through Chrysalis, scored two top 30 hit
singles (Alone and Ships) from their sixth album Buffalo Skinners,
and set out on another sold out UK and European tour. Their first
live album, Without The Aid of a Safety Net, was recorded in December
1993 at a tumultuous sold out Barrowlands gig and released in
Big Country's seventh studio album, Why The Long Face, was released
on the newly reactivated Transatlantic Records label in 1995,
and while critically well received, did not sell as well as hoped.
But on the live scene the band were doing as well as ever; they
co-headlined many 1995 European festivals with the likes of Bob
Dylan, Faith No More, Black Crowes and Soul Asylum. They then
landed the special guest slot on the Rolling Stones European tour
and several shows in the UK and Ireland with Page and Plant later
that year. A 40-date UK tour proved the band still had much gas
left in the tank.
An unplugged album featuring friends (Steve Harley, Kym Mazelle,
Hassam Ramzys Egyptian drummers) was released in 1996 after which
Stuart decided it was time for a break; he moved to Nashville
and the rest of the band did their own thing for a while.
In August 1998 they were once again invited to open for the Rolling
Stones and played 18 shows in Europe. Some of the best songs on
the new album Driving To Damascus, their upcoming eighth studio
album, were written in between these dates.
Two songs (Somebody Else and Devil In The Eye) were co-written
with Ray Davies, who became firm friends with the band after they
joined him on the main stage (sans Bruce) at Glastonbury in 1997
to perform a storming set in the rain. Both Ray and I pushed each
other into areas we wouldn't normally go says Stuart.
The first single from the album, Fragile Thing, released August
2nd, co-starred Eddi Reader; We had been mutual admirers from
afar and Eddi is one of the finest singers I have ever come across.
She took a sideways look at the song and expressed herself comments
frontman Stuart Adamson. Eddi also sang backing vocal on See You,
Grace and Bella.
Big Country are one of the few truly awesome live outfits to have
survived the roller coaster ride of the mad Eighties to come through
wiser and stronger, their star burning brighter than ever in 1999.
The group triumphantly returned to the live scene when they headlined
the Scotland for Kosovo gig, joined by Eddi Reader, Teenage Fanclub,
Gun, Simple Minds, Ricky Ross and Midge Ure, in Glasgow on May
31st this year.
The success of this gig led to the band actually performing on
11th September in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, as part of
a multinational all-star bill brought together by Vanessa Redgrave
& Bill Kenwright. The band were flown to the gig by the RAF and
then shuttled to the venue in a K-FOR armoured car. The sight
of several thousand Kosovars going wild in a sports arena in the
middle of a devastated city was one of the most moving events
in the bands career.
Big Country, who have scored 17 top 30 singles and seven top 30
albums in the past, are set to bounce back into the charts and
surprise fans and critics alike with their new album. Produced
by Rafe McKenna, Driving To Damascus is now out on the reactivated
Track Record label (original home of Hendrix, The Who etc.).
Driving To Damascus marks a major leap forward for the band, contains
textures and influences never before embraced and manifests Big
Country back at the peak of their creative powers.
However, in November 1999, the band received more International
Media coverage than they had seen in a decade or more. Stuart
Adamson did not arrive in the UK for British TV appearances and
some shows with Bryan Adams. Speculation was such that not only
the tabloids but the broadsheets (The Times called his publicist
requesting an up to date biog so that they could prepare an obituary
) and radio and TV gave massive coverage to him being missing.
Now residing in America and with many changes in his personal
life, Stuart decided he had had enough. In December the band commenced
a British tour which turns out was the start of the current ‘farewell
tour’. One date was a headline appearance at Aberdeens Millenium
Street party with over 50,000 in attendance.Stuart agreed to tour
one final time in Europe and the band did perform 18 dates in
Germany and Holland.
"In April last year, a dear work colleague & friend of the bands
and management - Joe Seabrook - passed away. On May 3rd (his birthday)
Bruce and Mark jammed with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood of The
Rolling Stones at his memorial. In more ways than one, the new
millennium for Big Country turned out to be the end of an era.
In May of the same year,the band embarked on their "Final Fling"
tour of UK. 11 sold out dates resulted in the recording and subsequent
release of "Come Up Screaming" a double CD which included most
of The Crossing live and other favourite tracks.The band had never
sounded so good and the audience as fervent or even, more so than
One would have thought this was the final end due to the marketing
of the tour but, the band did in fact perform one more show in
2000 and this was in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia. In October they were
on a multi national bill which included Jethro Tull,Steve Vai
and Joe Satrianni plus numerous acts from the Pacific Rim. As
it stands, this was their last concert to date.
Although the band will not be recording in 2001 and maybe never
again, there will be various releases and indeed 4 are planned
over as many months commencing in March. A covers album (with
their renditions of Woodstock, Paranoid, Oh Well, Don't Fear The
Reaper, Killiekrankie and 11 others) followed by a second "rarities"
CD, a 12" mixes CD and an acoustic album make up these 4 releases.
Videos are planned and DVDs. So although the band have taken a
sabbatical that may become permanent, there will not be any lack
of Big Country product.
Whatever can be or has been said about Big Country, no-one can
take away their musical legacy.