Big Country PhotoFORMED: 1981, Dunfermline, Scotland

With their ringing, bagpipe-like guitars and the anthemic songs of frontman Stuart Adamson, Scotland's Big Country emerged as one of the most distinctive and promising new rock bands of the early 1980s, scoring a major hit with their debut album The Crossing; though the group's critical and commercial fortunes dimmed in the years to follow, they nevertheless outlasted virtually all of their contemporaries, releasing new material into the next century. The England-born Adamson formed Big Country in mid-1981 following his exit from the Scottish punk quartet the Skids, enlisting childhood friend Bruce Watson on second guitar; Clive Parker and brothers Pete and Alan Wishart completed the original lineup, but were soon replaced by bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Bzrzecki. Signing to Polygram's Mercury imprint, the band issued its debut single "Harvest Home" in the fall of 1992; a series of opening dates on the Jam's farewell tour increased Big Country's visibility exponentially, and the follow-up, "Fields of Fire," cracked the UK Top Ten.

The Crossing appeared in the spring of 1983, its passionate, idealistic approach and Celtic-inspired arrangements far removed from the prevailing New Wave mentality of the moment; the album not only went platinum at home but went gold in America as well, its success spurred by the Top 20 pop hit "In a Big Country." Critics raved, and in early 1984 Big Country returned to the British Top Ten with the single "Wonderland"; their second album, Steeltown, entered the charts at number one, but despite good reviews there were already rumblings that all of the band's material sounded much the same, charges 1986's The Seer did little to rectify (although the single "Look Away" was their biggest hit yet). A tour of the Soviet Union accompanied the 1988 release of Peace in Our Time, but the following year Bzrzecki resigned from duty, with drummer Pat Ahern enlisted for the single "Save Me." Chris Bell replaced Ahern upon completing 1991's No Place Like Home, the first of the band's albums not to receive an American release.

After parting ways with Polygram, Big Country signed with the Compulsion label for 1993's The Buffalo Skinners, recorded with yet another new drummer, Simon Phillips; the record launched a pair of British Top 30 hits, "Alone" and "Ships." Bzrzecki rejoined the lineup in time for Without the Aid of a Safety Net, a live LP recorded in Glasgow at year's end. Why the Long Face followed in 1995, and after recording the acoustic effort Eclectic, in 1997 Adamson relocated to Nashville, prompting Big Country to go on extended hiatus. Driving to Damascus, the group's first new studio effort in four years, appeared in 1999; the single "Somebody Else" was co-written by Adamson and the Kinks' Ray Davies. Adamson announced his intentions to retire from touring in the spring of 2000, concurrent with the release of the limited edition Nashville Sessions. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide