Band From County Hell

Independent reviews from the road…

The headliners The Band from County Hell served as a highly energetic follow up. The five piece from Lincolnshire offered a perfect blend of folk punk you can do a Highland Fling to. The crowd erupted during their cover of The Pogues anthem Irish Rover, and the vibes and atmosphere was electric throughout their set. A credit to the band’s high performance level.

Review by Emma Gullon for The Leopard, Doncaster


The Band From County Hell are a Scots/Irish group from Lincolnshire and are huge fun - 'The Day My Granny Died' is a song everybody should hear at least once. They have been around for quite a while, with six albums to their credit & it seems odd that they aren't better known - although they don't lack for support.

Review by Review by Dai Jeffries,  BFCH Gig reviews 

To give you some idea of what is going on here I am going to tell you what instruments are played on the album:- Guitar, male vocals, female vocals, bodhran, fiddle, accordion, whistle, drums, trombone, saxophone, triangle, bass, mandolin, banjo, trumpet, piano, various percussion.

PUSSYCAT kicks off the album with pounding drums which are soon followed by a sweet but strong female voice. Then come catchy guitar hooks and delivered here is a class tune about London's apathy. It is of a Celtic folky nature but you can tell these people were also weaned on a solid diet of punk rock. We get into the song and a gruff male voice joins us sounding somewhere between Shane McGowan and Tom Waits to give us a nice bitter/sweet contrast. Finishing with an almost militaristic drum sound and repetitive vocals of 'don't care'. Top notch folky tuneage indeed.

LATE LOST SOULS has a slow musical intro with ethereal echoey, male and female vocals and a twin whistle to aid us on our travels to some twisted heaven. Then we are joined by that gruff vocal (which has a kind of Lars Frederiksen with a Scottish twang sound) to give the proceedings bite. The pace increases until we have a slower early Pogues feel before drifting with a slower Home Service feel. LATE LOST SOULS is a well crafted piece of story-telling which sucks you in to the bands psyche.

MEET THE FOLKS is upbeat and swingy again with interchanging male and female vocals. This is a good feel number and I am guessing it comes from that space where punk meets folk. It has references about green hair, Exploited tattoos, long black coats and folk music. Sweet music to my ears.

SHIFTS AND CHANGES begins with some very nice guitar plucking progressing to melodies reminiscent of The Men They Couldn't Hang. The blend of keys with other instruments give this song a beautifully sad, melancholic feel. It sounds nothing like Leonard Cohen but has the same effect of making you feel warm whilst at the same time sorrowful. Enchanting and wondrous.

BUT IT DID starts with a slow whistle then gathering speed results in a jigging, Levellers-ish kind of number. A very repetitive chorus which adds to make a very straight forward folky song halfway through but it does not lose its way. The mundane cocooned in the supernal. The mundane is a sweet beautiful place to be. It reminisces about times and places regarding a certain loved one and requests that the one sang about makes them whole and makes their day. Overall a fragile beauty of a song.

LIBERTY finds us in a more political place with dishonest judges and hypocrisy. A song about injustice which one can dance to. It is honestly resistant whilst at the same time complex and free. The incongruity between subject matter and musical feel gives it dimensions beyond the sum of its parts. Emma Goldman would be in her element.

SAD DAY makes me think of Kirsty Maccoll. It has that innocent feel Kirsty did so well. It is a sad day for progress and it's a sad day where ‘selfish folk are dictating what's to be’. The song talks about cloning and Florence but I cannot confess to totally grasp what it is about. What I do know it is done with passion and craftsmanship. One to ponder and reflect on me thinks.

MAMMY is the last song on the album and it has a slow swinging, folky, strutting start. Some nice mandolin bits and again an honesty which typifies The Band From County Hell. The lass appears to have gone off the rails and wants Mammy to help stir her back on course. It is a long rambling song and the band seem to be taking a long way back home but they arrive. Then a nice musical close down and the album is complete.

Overall a fine, well constructed album with depth and breadth. Honest and open, sensitive and stomping. SHIFTS AND CHANGES is a hit for me.

Review by Gary Eagling (Eagle Spits)

5MAY16 The Band From County Hell

Bagpipes. That’s one way of getting an audience’s attention. That combined with a piper (followed by the rest of the band) coming onto a stage draped with flags showing their Celtic motif and the words “fkn louder”, I think it’s safe to say, for those of us seeing Band From County Hell for the first time, that no one was under any underestimation that we were in for a decent slice of folk rock. With an exuberant energy from the off, you can see why they’re one of the few Lincolnshire bands to have escaped “County Hell” and graced many a festival stage as well as bagging a tour support with Stiff Little Fingers. Sauntering on stage (with her handbag?!) for the second song, singer Julie McLelland added her incredibly strong vocals to the mix, which really brought out an extra dimension to their material. With a fair crowd response, albeit slightly stilted in places, they weren’t helped by a pretty shocking (and amazingly variable) sound mix, and a few off-kilter harmonies towards the end, but the star of their set really was their fantastic violinist, who’s technicality and musicality shone out above anything else.

By Hannah Sylvester, Metal Discovery

3APR14 The Band From County Hell

When these guys walked on stage I knew the crowd was in for a treat. True Glaswegian Jock McLelland looked like a punk rock Rab C with his suit and string vest.

What struck me during the instrumental start was just how good these guys are as a unit, then you add the vocals of Joolz and you have the perfect Celtic combo.

What makes BFCH unique is that they write all there own songs and they have a backbone of six albums to cherry pick the set from. Songs like 'The Pigeon Song' and 'Changing' are foot tapping and punchy throughout. 'Day My Granny Died' is heartfelt and Joolz has us very much informed she is still alive. 'Meet The Folks' is a whimsical number about being skint and as it says in the title meeting the folks! My two favourite songs in the set were 'Late Lost Souls' and 'Liberty'. They had alot of depth and dealt with issues like how the world is changing and how people are left behind. Being a Scotsman myself the highlight for me was the breaking out of 'The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond'.

I have to say this is not your typical Celtic rock band. Yes they have the ceilidh numbers but there is so much more. Good tunes and stage charisma are in abundance at gig by The Band From County Hell.

Support from - Brad Dear

A quick mention about the support act, a chap called Brad Dear. This didn't come across as a guy with a backing band but more like a proper four piece such was the tightness and playfulness between them. The set was varied with foot tapping tunes about being skint and drunk complimented by others that were deeper with issues about war. And was that a can of deodorant that was used as an improvised slide?

By Ian Usher

31MAR13 Glider dance was brilliant...and different

"Two words can sum up the St Patrick’s Night dance at the Gliderdrome – brilliantly different!

For a start it was a Saturday night event, the first since the Starlight Room closed in 1973. It also started before the regular bingo session finished, but to the relief of the management there was no disruption.

In deference to the bingo, the first band could probably best be described as ‘quiet’ – compared to the later two. Greenman Rising certainly had their supporters, although they suffered from three of their eight-piece outfit being ill. The five who remained put on a very competent folk/rock show.

Second up was Across The Tracks, a six-piece ‘rockabilly’ band. the four guitars, drummer and young lady on accordion getting the crowd on the dancefloor with songs from the Small Faces and Elvis among others.

Top of the bill was Band From County Hell, who have earned a well-deserved reputation as the biggest Celtic folk rock band in the UK.

Many of those attending appeared to be newcomers to the Gliderdrome and obviously came specially to hear BFCH and the overall atmosphere made for a most enjoyable night.

The McLelland family make up most of the band; Steve is guitarist, his wife Joolz sings and son Ben is a very versatile young man who can certainly play the whistle and violin! They were supported by bass guitarist Steve, and the drummer.

All the popular Irish ditties were there, but the band started with a very upbeat Born To Be which soon had the crowd singing; they knew all the songs, or seemed to, and Irish Rover almost had the roof off!

All in all, a very ‘different’ night with more excellent lighting from Garry Pattison. It seems the younger generation have found a new ‘in’ place, with several there from the previous two recent dances. And as all seemed to go well, perhaps more Saturday dances may be on the cards?"

review by Dave Peatling

28SEP12 BMF Tailend Party 2012, Peterborough
"I was backstage when the Band From County Hell appeared on stage and had to come and see what was going on as it was a very loud party atmosphere I was missing out on. The BFCH were a celtic band and really had the crowd dancing all around the room with classics including the Irish Rover!"
More… BMF Tailend Party 2012 (TBFM Online)
22AUG11 Shifts & Changes
The Band from County Hell (BFCH) is a band hailing from Lincolnshire (England). The band is fronted by Glasgow-born Jock McLelland, who plays guitar, composes the music and shares vocal duties with his wife, Joolz McLelland, who writes the lyrics and plays bodhrán. The third member of the McLelland family in the band is multi-instrumentalist Ben McLelland (fiddle, accordion and tin whistle).

'Shifts & Changes' is the band's sixth album. It has been recorded in three different studios (including The Levellers' Metway) and has been produced by the well-known Mancunian producer and engineer Jim Spencer.

It's obvious that the band's main influence is The Pogues and BFCH label themselves as Indie Celts. In fact, they are said to be an excellent festival band. However, there are no covers or traditional numbers on the album. All of the tracks are self-penned songs and some of them feature piano, trombone, trumpet or saxophone.

My faves are 'Pussycat' (a strong fiddle led number sung by Joolz), 'Meet The Folks' (a good Celtic pop number that features brass, accordion, fiddle and piano; Jocks sings some lines and Joolz sings another ones), 'But it Did' (the first single off 'Shifts & Changes'. The song begins with the tin whistle and then the other instruments join before Jock sings in a Celtic punk style), 'Will You' (this song features a Gaelic verse by Daithí O'Geanainn and is a catchy Celtic rock number sung by Joolz with excellent fiddle and accordion by Ben) and 'Liberty' (lead vocals by Joolz, accordion at the beginning, then the song goes faster with tin whistle, fiddle and mandolin. A good British folk rock number)

If you like both Celtic punk and Celtic rock music, BFCH 'Shifts & Changes' could be a good addition to your collection.

Review by Kinksmarkham
31MAR11 Have You Heard?
A review of St Paddy's Day in Lincoln
13OCT10 Weyfest 2010 (04SEP10)
Read a review by Neil Mach a reviews editor from Raw Magazine
22MAY10 Here is the review from R2 RocknReel May/June 2010 for 'Shifts & Changes'
**** (4 stars)
Formed in 1995 and with five previous albums to their name, Lincolnshire-based six-piece The Band From County Hell have struggled to reach a wider audience, their albums failing to capture the band's live qualities. On the evidence of 'Shifts & Changes', that could be about to change. Self-doubt and a less than focused approach are now things of the past, replaced by a newly found confidence that energises these ten consistently gritty, passionate and appealing original compositions.
Throughout, genuine tunes harness a pop immediacy and benefit from seamlessly blended accordion, fiddle, whistle, banjo and guitar while the delightfully understated vocals of Joolz McLelland contrast with the occasional countrified croak of partner Jock.
Highlights include the brass-coloured, melody sodden 'Late Lost Souls', a sparkling, autobiographical 'Meet The Folks' with lyrics that evocatively recall, 'We had big black coats and Air Wair shoes, spiked green hair and Exploited tattoos'. There's a thoughtful reflection upon the cult of celebrity in 'Famous', and the poignant piano-and accordion-driven closer, 'Mammy', with its elements of Celtic pop-rock and barroom sing-along may well have created a new genre – Celtic boogie!

Steve Caseman
RocknReel Magazine May/June 2010

We are also featured this month on the free CD issued with the Mag track No 13 'But It Did'.
03AUG09 The Assembly, Leamington Spa
The Assembly
Our thanks to Andrew Lock for this review from The Leamington Spa Courier.
30MAR09 SLF gig Bridgewater
Hi to you all,
Caught you for the first time at SLF gig Bridgewater. Thought you were full on stonkingly good. Really enjoyed your set. Are you coming back down south anytime soon. I would like to catch a full night.
Cheers, Steve [SLF fan]
28AUG07 Wychwood review by Americana UK
Joolz at Wychwood Despite the rain earlier in the day, Friday evening was warm and sunny (an event which now seems remarkable at time of writing, halfway through the most desperate and inclement summer in living, and beyond that, memory) for the start of the 2007 Wychwood Music festival, the third episode in the continuing tale of this most enjoyable event held at Cheltenham Racecourse in er Cheltenham.

Festivals, like albums (in my view anyway!), need to start strongly and, despite not being a household name (well not in our house!) The Band From County Hell did a good job.

There is a train of thought (yes ok, mine) which has it that there has been nothing really new in maniacal (meant as a compliment) Celtic music since Shane Macgowan's Pogues took the genre and shook it until it squealed over twenty years ago. And I may be wrong, but my strong suspicion is that The Band From County Hell took their name from that source, as well as a certain spirit, and on this fine evening paid enough homage to carry it off on the main stage fairly splendidly. In the meantime, The Pursuit played in the ever so gloomy Big Ask tent unfortunately, to themselves.

© BFCH 2012

The Band From County Hell...still kickin' the arse out of it!