“Sing aloud for freedom and for liberty.” This is the kind of sentiment that the Band from County Hell stands for, and what their music is all about. The focus of the band centres, quite naturally, on the unlikely union of Jock and Joolz McLelland on centre stage. Both sing – Jock also changs out chords on an enormous acoustic guitar. Jock is tall (even taller than he needs to be in his New Rock boots) and an imposing figure both on and off stage, wearing a grey military-cut tailcoat and strange Tam o’ Shanter hat -he is a kind of Scottish marauder with punk/goth attributes. Joolz is more orderly, and she is wearing a velvet jacket and carefully placed scarf across her shoulders as she strides onto the Weyfest Stage, not a whisp of her golden hair is out of place. She looks like she is the ‘business end’ of this band. It is no surprise, then, to hear that she first found Jock whilst he was down-and-out and busking for pennies, and it is not difficult to imagine that she ‘saved’ his prodigious talent, so that it should be not be lost to the streets.
Son Ben (McLelland) is a mighty fee-fiddle-dee player, but also takes to the whistle and squeezes the accordian as and when required. ‘Mad Dawg’ Dowd smashes, crashes and rattles the drums in a very military style; While Filthy pinches, plumbs and plucks the bass guitar. This formidable crew of talent create a very special kind of celtic folk rock/fusion – a blend of New Wave influences from bands like ‘The Undertones’ but with ‘The Pogues’ and ‘Horslips’ in the mix too. And Joolz gives the BFCH songs a fresh raw edge.
After a couple of pieces into the set, the band began to relax on the Old Kiln Stage, Weyfest and the public realized that they were in for a treat. ‘Feel The Sun’ from the “Ghosts & Spirits” album was a plucky, warm cartwheeling summer song of golden days and hazy rays. Just right for the festival crowd.
‘Pussycat’ from the newest album “Shifts & Changes” and written for their recent tour with “Stiff Little Fingers” is a likeable but pompously over-acted folk-song with almost glam-rock pretensions. This part of the set also included the faintly macaronic song ‘Glasgow Paddy the Pigeon Racer’. Sinful and slippery ‘Sligo’ fiddle from Ben entwined the melodies and lyrics of each carefully crafted song, whilst the shaking, clacking rhythm was kept alive-alive-oh with Joolz on Bodhrán and Filthy on the bouncing bass guitar. The rattle of snare was never too far off either- courtesy of the Mad Dawg.
When the vocalists Joolz and Jock hit the sadder themes and introduce some sentimental ballads, the depth of their vibrato can be heard, adding interesting layers and dramatic effect to the songs. ‘Born To Be’ warms the listener up with some audacious vocals and progresses towards a reeling majestic hymn-like finish – as free as air.
After the gig we had a thirst like a gang of devils – not just for the beer in the beer tent – but also for more music from the folk from County Hell…. long may they thrive!