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Big Country: In A Big Country

Weekend Music

Rob G pointed out to me a few days ago that this past week was the 30th anniversary of the release of Big Country's first album, The Crossing. That's definitely an occasion worth remembering. The Crossing is one of my favorite albums; I think I even put it on a top 25 list...yes, apparently I did, though it wasn't strictly the top 25. I don't know of anything that sounds much like Big Country's music except Big Country's music. As far as I know they are the only group that thought it would be cool to make their guitars sound like bagpipes. 


If you aren't familiar with them and like this song, you can safely buy the album, as pretty much everything on it is just as good. I haven't listened to them for a long time, but judging by this I would still like them just as much. I used to have a tape with The Crossing on one side and R.E.M.'s Murmur on the other. It was my favorite late-night-driving tape.

P.S. Pause and say a prayer for the soul of Stuart Adamson, singer, guitarist, and one of the founders of the group, who committed suicide in 2001.


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Bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki also worked with Pete Townshend. You can hear Butler's very distinct backing vocal on "Let My Love Open the Door".

Now that is some obscure knowledge. I would certainly not have recognized those names (I mean, apart from Townshend's.)

Our family used to listen to the "Buffalo Skinners" album on car journeys, I loved the songs on that. Their later stuff appealed to me more than their early work when I was a teenager and student, mostly as it was slightly louder and grungier. The guitar-as-bagpipes thing didn't appeal to my youthful tastes.

I like their 2nd record, Steeltown, almost as much as the first one. The third one, The Seer, is good, but not up to the level of the first two imo. I didn't like the later stuff much, as it was more straight-ahead rock w/o the Scottishness.

Another Scottish band to check out if you like BC is Runrig. They don't have the guitar-bagpipe thing going on, but their guitarist, Malcolm Jones, actually plays bagpipes, so a lot of his guitar lines have that feel to them even if they don't 'sound' like the pipes. What's interesting is that Runrig's keyboardist, Peter Wishart, actually spent some time in BC in their very early days.

Both bands developed independently, however, and while they seem to have respected and been fans of one another (Runrig played at Adamson's memorial concert), there doesn't seem to have been any direct influence one way or the other.

Their best albums in my opinion are 'Amazing Things,' 'The Big Wheel,' and 'The Cutter and the Clan.' A.T. is actually one of my favorite albums of the 90's.

"slightly louder" would be pretty loud, I think. They had a pretty big and loud sound to begin with.

I have LP copies of Steeltown and The Seer, but I have to admit I've never really given them a chance. That was as far as I went with them. I listened to those two a couple of times and they didn't seem to have the magic of The Crossing. I guess I decided they were another of the many bands who only have one or two really good albums in them. Someday when/if I have more leisure I'll give those albums another shot.

Never heard of Runrig. Sounds interesting.

Stuart Adamson's suicide was doubly tragic, given that their biggest hit, "In a Big Country" was an argument against suicide, with the chorus "Stay alive". Obviously a pull he had struggled with for years...

A couple of my favorite Runrig tunes...

Also found this little Big Country gem a year or so ago...don't know if you've seen it:

For some reason I've got very bad wireless reception tonight and am unable to get these to play without maddening stops and starts. I did get a good idea of the Big Country one. My first reaction is that it really loses something without all the electric stuff. Though it's nice to hear the words.:-)

And re Daniel's comment: I hadn't thought of that lyric as being addressed to himself, but it makes sense.

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