Mick Sands is a fine singer and flute player from the North East of England. He was born into a very musical family, so started his apprenticeship in the crib, his father being well known throughout the North East as a fine singer. Soon with his brother and sister he formed an accapella group, that were very popular locally around Durham and Newcastle, performing with scallywags of the calibre of Boys of the Lough, 5 Hand Reel, Champion String and Eddie & Finbarr Furey.
Lough Erne's Shore:
When the Boat comes in:
- Up the Raw
- The Slave's Lament
- I Drew My Ship
- Midsummer Reels
- Lough Erne's Shore
- Where The Deerness Flows
- Donal Og
- Maid On The Shore
- Silver Dagger
- Forest Fields
- Tres Damas
- When the Boat Comes In
It was while at university in Manchester he made lifelong musical friendships with Londoners Kevin Boyle and John Roe; here they befriended the wonderful musicians of Manchester and especially the iconic fiddler, Des Donnelly (senior).
After university he they moved to London and got involved with the wonderful London Irish trad scene. He and his sister, Susan joined Kevin, Paul and Maggie Boyle in the shortlived but much loved group, "Mah Bhi". He was also briefly member of the legendary London super group, Le Cheile.
In recent years, Mick has concentrated his multi talents in theatre work, specialising in adapting medieval and ethnic vocal music for use in classical plays, he began composing original material which he continues today, working with Sir Peter Hall's Company, The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. In 2002 he was the recipient of the prestigious Christopher Walken Award for Music in the Theatre. Mick has been involved in many award wining productions in the West End. Recently he has composed and performed music for a major TV film, Tantalus: Behind the Mask, which has been nominated for an Emmy.
Despite all this brilliant work has continued to be a stalwart of the London Irish session scene and has found time to complete this his debut album. All his musical friends can now share his talents with a broader audience, but the one question remains, "Why did it take so Long Mick"?
Mick includes his version of When the Boat Comes in which has been used on a TV commercial selling Young's fish cakes!
Clive Carroll is a young member of the guitar maestro club whose fine playing and compositions have seen him establish himself at the forefront of the next generation of British guitar wizards. His musical contribution to Mick's music is much more that an accompanist, his total commitment to the project has led to this pair forming a musical duet which they want to take to a broader audience, as a working duet. They hope you will enjoy this new musical partnership.
Copperplate is very proud to have this title on our roster and to help it achieve its full potential will be supporting this release with a full-scale promotional mail out to media and retail. Feedback welcome.
For more detail check out Mick's own web site at www.micksongsands.com
Press Reviewswww.liveireland.com 5.13
In packing up the cd's we were digging in nooks and crannies and found an album sent to us by the aforementioned, Copperplate. How we missed this, we don't know. It is a few years old. We never heard it. We never reviewed it. Somehow, with getting 500 cd's a year, it fell between the cracks. Criminal. The album is called The Ominous and the Luminous by Micks Sands. Alan O'Leary tells us that Mick is from Northern Ireland originally but now lives in London. He is one of the best Irish singers we have ever heard. Mick is also a gorgeous flute player. He sings and plays Irish music the way others want to. We know Alan has it at Copperplate. Just Google, Copperplatedistribution.com . This gem may be hard to find, otherwise. Don't repeat our mistake. Find it.
The Folk Diary June/July 07
In many ways this is a low-key record. The song arrangements using flute and guitar and pleasing and really compliment the singing which is often quite laid-back and understated.
The repertoire is mainly traditional and has generally been recorded previously by others. The photographs show that this north-easterner is no
spring chicken and yet this is his debut album.So, nothing remarkable then? Well, the one thing is quite outstanding is the quality of Mick's voice and the ease with which he puts over his well chosen programme.
The notes show that he learned songs from the likes of Paddy Tunney and Cathal McConnell and the evidence here is that he has learned more than repertoire from those two masterly singers. Clive's guitar consistently adds to the enjoyment. (Vic Smith)
The Irish Times ****
Mick Sands is an English folk singer with an ear for the dramatic intricacies of folk song, a flute player and singer whose musical identity is infused with a rare sense of time and place.
His melding of Louis MacNeice's Autobiography with an aptly disconnected melody line serves homage to the rich lyrics, while his reading of Midsummer Reels is an airy celebration of his buoyant flute in full flight. Sands strikes a minimalist, medievalist mood to Donai Og (an interesting counterpoint to the version beloved of Maighread Nf Dhomhnaill), which sacrifices none of the vulnerability of co-dependency inherent in the lyric. Sands's bare-boned music is for wide open spaces and dark corners in equal measure. SIOBHAN LONG
Folk World 33
Mick Sands is a fine singer and flutist from the West Durham coalfields in the North East of England. After university Mick moved to London, where he was briefly a member of the legendary London group Le Cheile. Today Mick concentrates on theatre work, specialised in adapting medieval and ethnic vocal music for use in classical plays on the one hand, and in composing original music on the other. He mixed with the London Irish session scene and eventually has found some time to record his debut album. "The Ominous and the Luminous" is centred around his remarkable singing voice. Songs from Northumbria ("Up the Raw", "I Drew My Ship", "When the Boat Comes In"), Ireland ("Lough Erne's Shore", "Donal Og", "Cunla") and the Appallachians ("Silver Dagger"), even a traditional Sephardic text ("Tres Damas") set to original music. There is a Louis MacNeice poem and Burns' "The Slave's Lament" (compare the Battlefield Band version -> FW#32). The original "Where the Deerness Flows" is about the decay of the coal industry in his native home. In the end, Mick takes up the flute and treats us to three self-penned reels and a medley of a Romanian air, a jig and a slip-jig. The album title "The Ominous and the Luminous" might be intended for guiding any reviewer, but there is some truth in it.
ROCK'N'REEL Magazine May/June 07 * * *
Despite the awful cover, thankfully the long overdue debut album from Mick Sands impresses. Sands himself is a performer semi-active on the folk and session scene since the mid-60s, originally around his native North East where he and sibling's a cappella group shared the stage with Boys Of The Lough, Five Hand Reel and Eddie and Finbarr Furey; later, in Manchester, he developed his whistle and flute skills alongside many of the legendary musicians including the one and only Des Donnelly (senior).
A later move to London (where he's now based) saw him team up with the Boyle family- Kevin, Paul and Maggie - in folk act Man Bhi.
Nowadays he adapts classical and medieval vocal music for use in plays and works with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, but he still found time to put together this quietly confident and vocally assured selection.
From his cleverly inventive reworking of North-East trad song 'Up The Raw' which opens the album, another from the Northumbrian tradition - 'I Drew My Ship', through to his sensitive reading of Irish song Donal Og', it's a well-executed collection, albeit a little short of thrills. Steve Caseman
Singer and flute player Mick Sands hails from a musical family in the North East of England and has made quite a name for himself as a composer for the theatre, working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre among others.
Meanwhile he's continued to be a stalwart of the London Irish session scene, and this long-overdue debut album sees him wearing both of his musical hats, so to speak. He's certainly convincing and pleasant as a singer and player of traditional material, and Clive Carroll's accompaniment on guitar and banjo is delicate and tastefully understated.
However, it's the original material that really stands out - notably 'Autobiography', Sands' setting of the poem by Louis MacNiece, and 'Tres Damas', his darkly atmospheric setting of a traditional Sephardic text for a 2005 RSC production of the 1630 Philip Massinger play Believe What You Will.
Sarah McQuaid Seven / Ten
Why it's taken this excellent singer/flute player so long to get round to recording a solo album is a real mystery. Mick's been around music all his life: his Northumbrian background and musical family ensured early exposure to the delights of music-making, and together with his sister Susan he was heavily involved in the London Irish music scene after leaving university (he was in a group with the three Boyles at one point). Latterly Mick's been concentrating on theatre work, among other things adapting medieval and ethnic vocal music for use in classical plays, but he's not neglected folk music, keeping his hand in with the London Irish session scene.
But this slightly-offputtingly-titled CD (well it is a bit of a mouthful!) by and large steers clear of both of the above aspects of Mick's talent, concentrating instead primarily on his fabulous singing voice. Having said that, it proudly encompasses a vastly more varied selection of source material than you might expect to encounter from Mick, even acknowledging his multi-talented nature.
The disc is bookended by truly delightful performances of two indigenous songs from the north-east: Up The Raw (taken from the Northumbrian Minstrelsy) and When The Boat Comes In - the latter backed percussively (and most creatively) by spoons and handclapping! - while a further reflection of Mick's north-eastern lineage comes with I Drew My Ship. The second track, the beautifully melancholy Autobiography, is a superb setting by Mick of a favourite Louis MacNeice poem, accompanied by Siáned Jones' keening violin and Clive Carroll's guitar. On which subject, Mick couldn't have chosen a finer guitarist to complement the unique character of his own singing voice - notwithstanding the fact that Clive's immensely highly regarded as a skilled soloist, nay virtuoso, in his own right (and here on Mick's record he's no mere subordinate support artist). Back to Mick's singing, the solo and/or unaccompanied tracks are tremendous: potent yet utterly unaffected renditions of Dónal Og (with only a pipe drone for backing) and Robert Burns' Slave's Lament, and a seductive rendition of Cunla which at times sounds almost casually tossed out of Mick's mouth but by gum, its tongue-tripping lines are expertly handled! Instrumentally, Mick demonstrates his considerable skills (mostly on flute) on a lovely Forest Fields (a medley of Roumanian air, jig and slip-jig) and a set of Midsummer Reels (where you can marvel at Clive's extraordinarily sympathetic guitar work), also an intriguing, freshly syncopated "Irish-flavoured" version of Maid On The Shore (though I hear as much of Eastern Europe in those dashing rhythms!). Mick's treatment of Silver Dagger is set as a kind of Appalachian slow-drag-blues - and very effective it is too. As is Mick's original song Where The Deerness Flows, a poignant lament for the loss of the west Durham coalfield and the area's industrial heritage that has much of the feel of a traditional Irish ballad. And last but not least there's Tres Damas, Mick's mysterious, atmospheric yet simple setting of a traditional Sephardic text (originally done for a RSC production).
This is a landmark CD, a brilliant portrayal of Mick's multi-faceted musical personality. David Kidman
The Living Tradition
This CD comes as a worthy addition to the canon of North East English folk, as well as introducing a fine selection of music and song from further afield. With an impressive pedigree in Theatre, Mick Sands brings together tunes and songs from England, Ireland, Romania and the Jewish Diaspora and manages to make a coherent whole.
Many of the arrangements and compositions were commissioned for specific theatre productions and provide a perfect platform for Mick's versatility.
The recording quality is good and the whole thing is enhanced with excellent support from guitarist Clive Carroll.
At the heart of it all there is a sense of belonging, and a sense that wherever Mick's musical iournevs take him, the music of the North East will always be at the heart of things. Thus for me the stand out tracks are his beautifully unaffected renditions of Up The Raw and When the Boat Comes In, for while there is occasional unevenness in the flute and whistle playing, Mick's vocals are outstanding.
There is an accuracy and warmth to his singing, which lingers in the mind and brings the songs to life. Nick Keir
The Irish Democrat
THIS DEBUT album by Northumbrian singer and flautist Mick Sands is delightful mixture of original compositions and arrangements of mainly traditional tunes originating from the north east of England, Ireland and further afield.
Produced in collaboration with Chelmsford-born banjo player and guitarist Clive Caroll, a talented composer, performer and the recipient of numerous musical prizes and awards, it's hard to believe, given Sands' own pedigree, that the album is his first.
Born into a musical family, Sands has been performing since his youth. During a spell in Manchester where he was studying at university, he made lifelong musical friendships with Londoners Kevin Boyle and John Roe. He also befriended the legendary fiddler Des Donnelly (senior).
On moving to London, he soon became associated with the Irish session scene there, and still is. However, he has also built up a formidable reputation for adapting medieval and ethnic vocal music for use in the theatre, having worked for some of the most prestigious in the land, including as the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and the Royal National Theatre (RNT).
There's a definite nod in the direction Sands' theatre work on the album with the inclusion of Tres Damas, a traditional Sephardic text, beautifully set to music by Sands for an RSC production of Philip Massinger's play 'Believe What You Will', written in 1630.
The album also includes three reels written for an Irish version of Strindberg's play 'Miss Julia', produced last year (2006) at the Theatre Hall, Bath, as part of a series of plays directed by Sir Peter Hall.
As might be expected given Sands' background, there's a fair smattering of songs from the north east. These include a number from what he describes on the album's liner notes as 'the Northumbrian Minstrelsy'
These include the album's opener 'Up the Raw' , with its original arrangement by Sands, and 'I Drew My Ship', a song about lost opportunities in love.
The original Sands composition, 'Where the Deerness Flows', is a poignant reflection on the dramatic changes that have taken place in recent years in the once industrious west Durham coalfield. Sands' love of Irish music can be found throughout the album. In addition to the reels already mentioned, there's a haunting version of the pentatonic Fermanagh love song 'Lough Erne's Shore', an 800-year-old song from the Irish medieval tradition,'Donal Og', and an arrangement of 'Cunla', learnt from the legendary piper Seamus Ennis.
Spreading their wings even further, Sands and Carroll have included an arrangement of a traditional Appalachian murder ballad, 'Silver Dagger'.
Between them these two multi-talented musicians have produced an album that will warm the hearts and stimulate the intelligence of folk music lovers, from wherever they hail. An absolute delight. David Granville
TAPLAS The Welsh Folk Magazine Dec 06/Jan 07
Initially a mainstay of the Irish music scene in North-East England, then relocating to London to concentrate on theatre work, singer and flute player, Mick Sands has remained a stalwart of the London Irish scene for many years.
On this his first recording, he is joined by guitar wizard, Clive Carroll. The songs are a varied selection, mainly from the Irish and North-Eastern traditions, with Mick's theatrical background showing through on his arrangement of Louis McNiece's poem, Autobiograph and, to a lesser degree, on his highly ornamented singing of Donal Og. He's more successful with the less melodramatically delivered (though more dramatic in content) Slave's Lament, which he sings unaccompanied to great effect. Other musicians include Tim Van Eyken (on one track briefly).
Overall quite an impressive, if long overdue debut, which reveals more with repeated listening. Nick Passmore
Irish Dancing & Culture Feb 07
Mick Sands is a singer and flautist from the North East of England, The Ominous and the Luminous is Mick Sand's debut Album, although he has been involved in the theatre for many years and has won awards in this field.
When you listen to his works, it is surprising to think how long this CD has been coming, it's hard to believe that this is Mick Sands debut album. It becomes clear the reason why so many of Mick's peers were excited at the release of such an album. It's a great CD.
The music has a refreshing traditional air about it, each track is very different from the other. All-in-all, a refreshing CD for fans of Irish culture! Leanne Nelson. Fab Rating * * *