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BEN SANDS "Better Already" Spring SCD1050

This CD is a gem. Original songs, beautifully written, sensitively performed and with a lovely low key accompaniment by a selection of Ulster musicians. Apart from the man's lovely Ulster lilt, you'd just KNOW the tradition he is from, because the words flow like an old Paddy Tunney song. On the difficulty of "Writing a song for you", how about?. "You're my inspiration/ the muse for my poetic powers/ but the next time you want me to show you I care/ I'll buy you a nice bunch of flowers." . now does that ring a bell for all you songwriters out there? For me, ringing bells, or more prosaically, achieving empathy with your listeners has to be the aim of any decent songwriter and Ben Sands does a Big Ben job here, speaking campanologically!

His gentle sense of humour and wry observation of modern life pervades the entire CD, nowhere better than in his view of every couple's big day in 'Wedding Daze'. The songs are very contemporary in style, with NO political content, but the tradition is so inherent in the man's writing, that he effortlessly avoids the introspection which causes so many groans about "songwriters"! The whole arrangement also has the sense to break up these quite emotionally demanding songs with a couple of lovely tunes tracks, one celebrating the town of Newry's 2002 elevation to city status, 'Farewell to the Town'. There's only one identifiably "Irish" song here - 'Fair Exchange' which contains elements of Micky McConnell's wonderfull 'Tinkerman's Daughter'. Mind you, this one's a lot more democratic and they all three agree to the deal, although what the parish priest would have thought is rather doubtful. From this very song, as a cameo of the oul' times in Ireland, how about this?. "They lived together quietly like two odd socks on the line/And they only pulled together at the milking". anyone who's lived in the remoter parts of Ireland can surely relate to that!

The CD booklet gives all the song words, with not a word about the man himself or any of the performers, but quite frankly who needs it? The CD may be a little short at 44 minutes, but this music speaks out loud to anyone with ears to listen. It's the essence of an ongoing tradition and not to be missed.

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 54 of The Living Tradition magazine.