With the release of his ninth album Turn the Corner, Colum Sands continues to weave his wit and wisdom into verses that travel the world.
Most of the ten new songs on Turn the Corner were written in 2012 when, Colum says, 'I took a year out from presenting a weekly radio BBC programme, slowed down on concert touring and enjoyed a welcome break from the laziness of keeping so busy that there isn't time for the serious work of thinking!'
That fruitful period gave him time to reflect on his travels and explore the detail, the riddles and the humour of life around home in Rostrevor, County Down.
From Song for a Rainy Day (in praise of liquid sunshine) to The Glassmakers Hand (which has already helped to save the famous Stourbridge glass museum from closure), each song turns a new corner towards the wondrous landscape of his imagination and the unique powers of his observation.
In January 2013, when Germany's largest weekly newspaper Die Zeit commissioned him to write an article on the flag protests in Belfast, Colum recalled a story of two long feuding dogs in Hilltown and the wonderfully quirky ' Two Angry Dogs ' emerged, a song that was published and widely read in German before he had a chance to record it in English!
Exploring the power of sound in any language, Sands provides a veritable vowel feast in the instantly catchy ' Annie I owe you ' to salute the font of wisdom that belongs to humanity and the common sense that can save us all from the spiralling mountains of hype, misinformation and prying that surround us.
There is a universal and timeless thread to these songs too with an eye across the years from the 1889 Armagh train disaster ( The Spirit Lives on ) to the modern day 'tradition' of human sheep pens at airports as in Walls and Windows .
For those in a dark place, The Longest Night and The Shortest Day celebrates the light above and how the extremes of nature and life are often much closer than we think.
'Too late to fatten your hens on the morning of market day!' is but one memorable line from his glorious ode to the present on Lazy Hill and Piper in the North Country is a lyrical litany of traditional tune titles. The latter track features the excellent piping of Claire Byrne who joins an all star cast of guest musicians across the album including Karen Tweed, Brian Finnegan, Steve Cooney, Sinead Stone, Ger Farrelly, Nuala Curran and fellow members of The Sands Family.
Annie I Owe You:
Piper in the North Country:
The Spirit Lives On
Annie I Owe You.
Song for A Rainy Day.
The Glassmaker's Hand.
Turn The Corner
Two Angry Dogs.
Piper in The North Country.
Walls & Windows.
The Longest Night & The Shortest Day.
Colum Sands has been described as a poet disguised as a songwriter and a singer disguised as a story teller but few would dispute that he writes and performs songs with a style that is truly his own.
When Sands says that he 'prefers the little back roads of dialect to the straight motorways of perfect grammar' you get a sense of how he peoples his songs with characters and places that we've all known but just hadn't the time to stop and appreciate. When Billy Connolly describes him as a writer who says hard things in a gentle way you can imagine how he combines edge and humour to write songs of life during and after the 'Troubles' or to work in English and Hebrew with Middle Eastern storyteller Sharon Aviv in Israel's first integrated school for Jews and Arabs, Neve Shalom , Oasis of Peace.
His songs have been translated into many languages and have been covered by artistes as diverse as June Tabor, Makem and Clancy, Roy Bailey and Andy Irvine. Colum himself has translated Goethe from German and Scottish Gaelic into English in recent years.
A long time presenter of the popular BBC Radio Ulster programme 'Folk Club', Colum has also produced around one hundred albums, working with young musicians and veterans like Joan Baez and Pete Seeger.
He has received a Living Tradition Award and was shortlisted for three nominations for the 2009 Grammy Awards.
An unforgettable, wonderful performer. I've just seen him play to 2500 people in the Australian National Folk Festival's biggest venue and make everyone feel as if they were sitting in his lounge room. He's warm, witty, moving and funny… Steve Barnes Director Fairbridge Folk Festival
Friday 15th and Sat 16th September 2017
The Folk Gathering
Peak National Park
Friday 22nd September 2017
Bacca Pipes Folk Club
Saturday 23rd September 2017
The Cellar Folk Club
Sunday 24th September 2017
Scrag End Folk Club
6, Chapel Street, Swadlincote,
Tuesday 26th September 2017
Cramlington Folk Club
Wednesday 27th September 2017
The Red Lion Folk Club
Thursday 28th September 2017
Redbourn Folk Club
Friday 29th September 2017
Folk at The Grove
Saturday 30th September 2017
Youlgrave Folk Club
Youlgrave Village Hall DE45 1UT
7.30pm. Doors open 6.45pm.
Tickets: £15 01629 636 477,
email email@example.com or from
Youlgrave Village Shop and The Bakewell Bookshop.
Sunday 1st October 2017
Forest Folk Club
Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
Tuesday 3rd October 2017
Cutty Wren Folk Club
Saturday 14th October 2017
Irish Music Magazine August 14
Early last June, my wife and I were on our way to Inverness from Belfast City Airport when who should be waiting to board the same flight but Colum Sands! It was great to see him again and to note that he still has the gift of eternal youth and retains the Sands gift of graciousness of nature and affability.
There's always a hill somewhere that beckons and stirs the mind no matter how long ago since it entered one's ken. And that's the theme of Colum's delightful opening song, Lazy Hill in his new CD Turn the Corner. Mine was a hill above the townland of our new home in Ludden near Buncrana, Co. Donegal, when I was nine and had moved from Muff. His had a name, but ours was just 'the hill'. For Colum, Lazy Hill was a 'good place for anyone to slow down' and enjoy the singing of the 'birds in the hawthorn hedges'. In Turn the Corner, he displays that Sands' magic for creating atmosphere in the words and airs to songs he's written for us all to enjoy. Song words are included along with great notes.
'All Song Words and Music by Colum Sands' is what it declares in the CD notes. And why is this? Colum explains that in 2012 he took a year out from presenting his weekly programme with the BBC and also slowed down on concert touring. 'It was a welcome break from the laziness of keeping busy,' he says, 'and using endless activity as an excuse for avoiding the serious work of thinking!'
Well, I am happy to report that he wasn't wasting his time because what he has served up in Turn the Corner is a lovely daisy—chain of gems in words and music, all turned out in a seamlessly woven garment of delightful musical arrangements. NOTE: the music enhances what we're hearing and doesn't over—ride the words which are always clear and audible. Thank you, Colum and fellow musicians, who include family members, Tommy, Ben, and Anne, and friends, Brian Finnegan, Steve Cooney, Maggie MacInnes, Karen Tweed, Claire Byrne, Nuala Curran, and Sinéad Stone. Aidan O'Hara
R2 May/June 14 REVIEWS ****
In the late 70's, punk introduced a generation to a political sensibility and the notion that it was possible to make music outside the major label system. if you were from Newry, then the Sands Family. that gentle but immutable folk juggernaut that hailed from just a few miles down the road had illuminated that path years before.
In recent years The Sands Family have recorded and toured more sporadically but the slack has been more than taken up with solo releases. On this, his ninth album, Colum is aided and abetted by his brothers and sister as well as a clatter of guests drawn from a widely thrown circle of friends. They help him tell stories drawn from the roads and hills round his native Rostrevor, literally in the case of opening track 'Lazy Hill' — stories thathe is adept at spinning out into a wider signi?cance.
He's adept. too, at writing songs that are shot through with humour without being silly. like all the Sands siblings, Colum is good at making words count. You'll never find yourself puzzling over the meaning of one of these songs although there is frequently more than one to be found. Greg M¢Ateer
A new CD from Colum Sands is always welcome and this one certainly does not disappoint. All his own work, with able backing from family and musical friends, Colum's easy style belies some extremely sharp wit, much of it gently aimed at modern problems, but never falling into the easy trap of anger and bitterness.
A year out from touring in 2012 gave Colum some time for the serious business of thinking and the songs in Turn The Corner are all products of this 'thinking time' and relevant to life in the 21st century, without the introspection so common among singer/songwriters.
We all have a location and the feeling of relief we experience when we are 'turning the corner' to home, and his metaphor of the Two Angry Dogs as a parallel to the Belfast flags protest, without provoking any rancour, is a remarkable feat.
Piper In The North Country is built around tune titles, not an original idea maybe, but a heartfelt celebration of young people playing the old music - accompanist Claire Byrne's uilleann pipes being just one in question. The onerous security precautions we all face at airports are the theme of Walls And Windows , but Colum bounces it all back to us — 'Do we block the light or let it through?' Full lyrics are provided in an attractive leaflet with Colum's own thoughts about each song.
The CD opens with a eulogy to lovely Lazy Hill in County Down, which sounds like a good place to start a year of thinking, and closes with The Longest Night And The Shortest Day - are they really so far apart? More questions than answers on this album maybe, but this, his ninth CD, is a high quality effort from one of Ireland's finest songwriters - maybe it's time for more of us to take time out for thinking? It certainly worked for Colum! Jim Bainbridge
"Turn The Corner" is Colum Sands ninth album, which may seem a relatively small return on a thirty year plus recording career, his debut album "Unapproved Road" came out back in 81, but that ignores his additional careers as a documentary and radio presenter as well as producer.
When recording his own songs, Sands has gained a reputation for being a wordsmith that delivers his material with wit and flare and line's like, 'Half the world dying from eating too little and half from eating too much' on "Annie I Owe You" would more than bail that out, there is a real connection to the listeners. It's a song that both pokes fun at and raises issues about the new world order and does it such a way that you feel you're not being preached at.
"Turn The Corner" is an album that is predominantly delivered at walking pace. It has a lilt to that makes you think that you aren't in a hurry that you've got time to take out and listen to it properly so you do, it's a neat trick, one that's more about the journey than the final destination.
Along the way there are plenty of points of interest and a rich set of metaphor that allows you to take the songs at face value, often human interest or to take time and dig into the underlying meanings, "Two Angry Dogs" being a great example, it can be a song about two village dogs making a noise about being top dog or an analogy of Ireland, take your pick.
If you're a fan of the songwriters art, this is an album well worth checking out, Sands knows how to put an album together as well as individual songs. He comes across as a highly personable bloke who seems happy to share a beer and tune and in addition, "Turn The Corner", also features some great musicianship. Neil King
Colum Sand, Turn The Corner entwining heritage and tradition
The wandering Irish troubadour is as constant as the North Star and as welcome as the sunrise, and as long as sun and stars shine in the sky such folk will regale eager audiences with their meaningful tales of wisdom, wit and woe. With his latest album 'Turn the Corner', Colum Sands continues to reinforce his long-established position among those singer-songwriters that entwine the heritage and tradition of their native country into stories about life, love and homeland.
As in all his work, there's the quiet humour, incisive lyrics and subtle art of relating serious, sorrowful and joyful stories. Creating tales that take in the best and worst of life, Colum's softly delivered vocals, music soaked in the Irish tradition, hold your ear and add a special empathy to his songs. Finding delights on 'Turn The Corner' is no hard task — there's the delightful expression and soft enjoyment of 'Lazy Hill' , the perfect 'Their Spirit lives On' telling the sad tale of the 1899 Armagh Train Disaster and the sharply observant lyrics and convivial counsel of 'Annie I Owe You' .
Throughout his songs, Colum crafts a lyrical edge that cuts with the soft slash of a sabre '… half the world dying from eating too little and half from eating too much.' All you need to do is listen to 'Turn The Corner', 'Two Angry Dogs' or 'Walls and Willows' and you're sharing his poetry and music.
On 'Turn The Corner' Colum (vocals, guitar, mandolin, concertina, double bass) assembled an impressive list of musicians to add their talents across selected tracks Claire Byrne (uilleann pipes) Steve Cooney (didgeridoo) Nuala Curran (cello) Gerard Farrelly (piano) Brian Finnegan (whistle) Maggie MacInnes (clarsach) Anne Sands (backing vocals, bodhran) Ben Sands, Tommy Sands, Sinead Stone (backing vocals) and Karen Tweed (accordion). Reviewer: Tim Carroll
The Irish Music Magazine 05.14
Colum Sands continues on his solo merry way — his 6th solo album Turn the Corner follows a year long sabbatical from touring. Not surprisingly it wallows in a newly forged renovation of his raison d'etre.
Using a cast of many sparingly he manages to create meaningful vignettes of life and events peppered with insight and humour.
Colum Sands writes song bedecked in gentle humour possessing a sage like wisdom. He delights in the everyday and ordinary and manages to uncover some gem of awareness otherwise forgotten or overlooked. lt's this simplicity of approach and a laid back delivery that disarms in its lack of attack but once exposed to and wound in is impossible to ignore.
The Spirit Lives on commemorates the Armagh Train Disaster of 1889 and the crunchy political punch of Annie I Owe You is wrapped in the simplicity of a children's song.
The moves are forever subtle yet betraying an emotive power wrapped in inherent simplicity as practised and mastered by Colum Sands. John O'Regan