Colum Sands,
The Note That Lingers On
(Spring, 2003)

Seldom has a single family produced such talent!

My introduction to Irish folk music included the Sands Family. Sadly, the group broke into various parts -- although they occasionally regroup for festivals. Then we got the bonus, a clutch of top-class solo performers and songwriters who kept working on their own. Many will be familiar with Tommy, and I have reviewed the great releases of Ben in these pages, and now we come to the young lad, Colum.

This is the only member of the clan that I have seen perform live, and what a show he puts on! This album is as close as you will get to that magic -- and it comes pretty close.

He opens with "The Donegall Road," a s ong looking at that area of Belfast and its connotations in recent history. "Song for Adam & Eve" has him ably accompanied by Sinead Stone on a beautiful song of love dictated by the concept of guilt in the religions of the world.

My favourite track - well, I love them all, but this is has a slight edge -- is "Going Down to the Well with Maggie." It is a beautiful story of a youngster with his old aunt, replete with phrases that we all can relate to. There are references to the pope's picture on the wall, gathering sticks for the fire and using paraffin oil to light the fire. I particularly like the pragmatic Irish reference to Maggie's religious practice: "St. Anthony was a friend of hers but she stayed at home to pray, the smell of incense made her sick and the priest said that's okay."

If you would like a look at the psychology of war in 1 minute 6 seconds, lend a close ear to "Skipping History Lesson."

I am always amazed at how folk songs could replace a Sunday sermon and still not sound preachy. "The Child Who Asks You Why" could be played in place of any homily.

"Did you hear me asking for your help to keep hunger's pangs away
When I held out my paper cup on the streets of your town today?"

Sadly, the title of the track immediately after may not be an accident. It is called "Talking to the Wall" -- in other words, no one listens.

Colum Sands has a great knack for bringing the Irish folk history to life in song. Anyone who ever attended an Irish funeral or wake will identify with "Wake Song."

This is another of those essentials for a true folk collection.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 9 October 2004

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