The Sands Family,
Keep on Singing
(Spring, 2008)

Keep on Singing reminds me of the power, potential and absolute necessity of folk music if our world is to mean anything and to have a conscience.

Over the years, the Sands Family has splintered, given us top-class individual performances and then re-formed. This album would be an excellent introduction to four people whose individual talents are formidable, but together can become magic. My great regret is not seeing them live -- as a group.

The one member I have seen live is Colum, and that was a joy. He has a marvelous knack of taking the humorous aspects of life and using them to focus our attention on the serious. He does this to perfect effect on "Look Where I've Ended Up." Who else could give us observations on modern life that make us think deeply through the laughter with phrases like, "remote controllers all over the house / we have not the remotest control" or "there's money for weapons and war games and nothing for hospital beds"?

Ben also uses observational humour but focuses more on the everyday life we all lead, like in the lovely tale of thwarted romance called "The Cheesecake Song."

Anne has always been the distinctive voice of this group for me, ever since her haunting rendition of "Streets of Derry" all those years ago. She scores again on "I Will Always Love You." This is not the Dolly Parton song but rather a new composition that could become a mother's anthem. It is a simple but elegant telling of a child growing and going: "walk across the floor but when you toddled back to me I loved you all the more."

Tommy Sands has been pricking the consciences of nations in gentle but firm ways for decades with songs like "There Are Roses." On this album two of his songs stand out. "Time for Asking Why" is in the great folk tradition -- often misunderstood by the "neo-cons" -- of asking questions of a country you love in order to have it rise to its potential. Listen to lines like, "Do you mock the democracy you cannot control." He reminds Ireland that we are not free from guilt on the title track as lines like, "Lying here in Patrick Street unable to stand, the natives who have beaten me do not understand" ask us to bear in mind the prejudice the Irish suffered in foreign lands when we look at the "new Irish" with different skins, accents or traditions.

This album is probably the best you are going to get in 2008 so make it your business to seek it out.

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review by
Nicky Rossiter

20 December 2008

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