Ben Sands,
Take Your Time
(Spring, 1993)

Listening to this CD made me very angry. The songs are superb, the performance first-class and the production flawless. Unfortunately, the world -- which so deserves to hear the contents -- may miss out on this release because it is not on a major label and so many radio stations appear to have a tacit boycott of folk music.

Ben Sands is one of Ireland's best writers and performers. He wows audiences around the world with his live performances and quiet renditions of songs that matter. On these 11 tracks he lulls us, he makes us laugh and he makes us think while at all times he entertains us.

From his own beautiful opener "I'm Glad It Was You," which appears to combine finding lost love and appearing again at an old venue, he is on a roll, and the listener is the big winner.

He writes some classy material but also he can interpret the work of others as he does on Alan Taylor's "Lady Take Your Time." But words are not his only weapon. He is an accomplished instrumentalist and composer. He takes a pub where he "tries out new songs among friends" and immortalises it on the lovely "Cove Tuesday."

His take on traditional songs is something worth hearing. His "Willie Archer" -- which some may know as "The Banks of the Bann" -- is yet another gem. It is the usual tale from the folk tradition with illicit love, babies and obstacles, but Sands gives it a lovely timbre with a simple arrangement that blossoms every now and then with soulful instrumentals.

The CD is not too recent and this is most noticeable on "Hawks & Eagles," a song written and performed before the great changes in South Africa. Perhaps this is no bad thing; we need to hear the songs that protested injustice even if matters have been rectified. Anyone who is too young to recall those days should listen to hear what it was like. You may learn more in three minutes of music than in a book that takes hours to read.

One of the joys of listening to this singer is his knack for collecting old material and adapting it. There is further fun in trying to recognise the other versions you may know. On "Belfast Mountains" there are echoes of "The Banks of Claudy" -- but then you wonder, is it?

He closes with the humorous signature on "Goodbye John Joe," one of the songs I first heard on the crackling vinyl of an old Sands Family album that first introduced me to this maestro.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 4 September 2004

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