Roots & Branches
Ben Sands hails from the frontier town of Newry, County Down on the East coast of Ireland. He was born fourth in a family of 5 boys and 2 girls on a small farm near the village of Mayobridge, in the foothills of the Mountains of Mourne. Ben's branch of the Sands clan has a long history of music, singing, and storytelling and his father, Mick, was a legendary character whose songs and fiddle playing were spiced by a wealth of wit and adventure. His mother, Bridie, a fine singer and accordion player, was the daughter of the noted Burren folk-poet, Owen Connolly, whose wife was related to the Bronte family. This heritage of creativity and performance was drawn upon to make the hard grind of day-to-day life on a small farm not only bearable but often memorable and the family home in the townland of Ryan became a very popular 'Ceili-House', the focus for singers and musicians from miles around. Ben tried his hand at any instrument that came about the place and after early excursions on piano and fiddle he added further adventures on guitar, whistle, uillean pipes, tenor banjo, bazouki and mandolin. In due course he became a cornerstone of the illustrious 'Sands Family', performing and recording with that widely travelled and acclaimed band since the early 1970s. While 'The Sands Family' continue to tour and record in their own inimitable fashion, Ben has followed brothers Colum and Tommy Sands as a successful solo performer and recording artiste. To his acknowledged accomplishments as a song-writer, instrumentalist, harmony vocalist and arranger, Ben brings a solid reputation as a 'great singer of great songs' from a diversity of sources. These days his own compositions feature prominently in his concerts as well as in the performances and recordings of a growing number of notable artistes. Ben Sands' songs, music and stories paint pictures of an ongoing legacy inherited and absorbed in those early, influential years on a small farm in County Down and enriched by his colourful, musical, adventure-some journeys through life. Take Your Time Ben's first solo album was recorded by his brother, Colum Sands at his Spring Studios in Rostrevor, Co. Down during February/March 1993. It features four songs and two instrumentals composed by Ben along with great versions of Mickey McConnell's 'Supermarket Wine', Ian Walker's 'Hawks and Eagles' and Allan Taylor's 'Lady, Take your Time'. Featured artists include Arty McGlynn, Kieran Goss and the other members of 'The Sands Family' Roots & Branches A second album came along in the summer of 1998, using a similar blend of own compositions, covers and gems from the Irish tradition. Classic tracks include 'Back on the Diet on Monday', 'In Berlin', 'Going To Morrow' and a great version of 'The Games People Play' featuring uilleann pipes. Better Already The third solo CD, released in April 2003, includes nine songs and two instrumentals, all self-composed and all of the superbly high quality that has marked Ben's two earlier solo albums and his many recordings with The Sands Family. The well-tried and tested 'Sands' trademarks of humour, pathos, wit and folk-wisdom are all well to the fore in the new songs here. Included, too, is an instrumental 'Farewell to the Town', commissioned for and played during presentations in connection with Newry's successful bid for city status in 2002. Producer Johnny Scott, former guitarist/arranger with Van Morrison and Eddie Reader, (among many others), shows Ben's latest compositions in a different light - a few adventurous steps away from the more traditional settings of earlier recordings - but always maintaining that sense of sincerity and sheer class that mark Ben's work.