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COLUM SANDS Look Where I’ve Ended Up Now

Look Where I’ve Ended Up Now

Spring Records  SCD1059

Colum Sands is inspired by people. The songs on his seventh solo album show this more clearly than ever, and the result is another engaging celebration of our better selves. Some of the people are from his home base of Rostrevor in County Down, but more are met on his travels. He embraces the life of a folksong troubadour in the title track, and takes us on to people met and stories heard in Israel, New Zealand, Germany, and the north east of England.

Beyond The Frame remembers two brothers from Rostrevor, artists and signwriters: In freedom’s name beneath the sun, some close one eye to aim a gun. / Some open both, see far and wide, all colours living side by side. Rostrevor is just a few miles from Warrenpoint, by the way. Song For Nuri is inspired by a Bedouin activist persecuted by the Israeli authorities. Fred Jordan’s Boots celebrates the life of the Shropshire farm labourer and tradition bearer who I was lucky enough to hear sing at the National Folk Festival: Fred bequeathed his hobnailed boots to his friend Roger Giles, and Colum stayed at Roger’s house while touring in New Zealand. From The Darkness Of the Mine came from talking to Doreen Henderson, the daughter of Jack Elliot, one of the Elliots of Birtley: her peace activism is seen as a continuation of the mineworkers’ solidarity embodied by her father. Lighter songs include Du You Sie, with delightful word play on German forms of address, and Too Loud, with a polite moan about noise pollution. Is it all too nice, too relentlessly uplifting?  Maybe the occasional spurt of toxic bile (such as Richard Thompson, for instance, is capable of) wouldn’t go amiss. But Colum’s songwriting flows from his nature, experience and beliefs, and I shouldn’t wish it any other way.

Colum plays guitar, double bass, concertina and mandolin, while accompanists include Brendan Monaghan on whistle, Karen Tweed on accordion and Ursula Byrne on fiddle. Ursula closes two of the songs with tunes: The Connaught Man’s Rambles and, most fittingly, The Reconciliation Reel.

Postscript.  Listening to these songs again, a few days later, the lack of bile seems fine. After I wrote the first draft of this review I turned the radio on… and then the TV news channel. A man had gone berserk. Twelve people were shot dead in my county of Cumbria, and many more lives were smashed. I think of a winter’s day of stunning clarity, when I looked from Skiddaw across the Irish Sea to the snow-crowned Mountains of Mourne which overlook Rostrevor. Maybe Colum was there that day, working on more songs of hope and healing.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.