A Review of the Ben Sands CD
"Roots and Branches"

"Roots and Branches"
by Ben Sands

Spring Records (SCD 1043)
copyright Elm Grove Music1998.

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 7/06

I write this review from my home in Britain some 8 years after this CD was first released. But in a way, it is a new album to me, since although I have heard individual tracks down the years and seen Ben sing some of the songs in performance, this is the first time I have heard the album all the way through.

As I have said when reviewing Ben's debut solo album, “in the English-speaking Folk world, Ben Sands needs no introduction. So I will spare you all the stuff about his famous Ulster family and his place IN that family in Rostrevor, County Down. I will take it as a given that you know all this: if you don't, then please check out his website”.

This was Ben's second solo CD. Again, for accompaniment, he is joined by some stellar names like Kieran Goss, and Ben's brother Colum (who co-produced the album with Ben, incidentally).

Like his first album, it contains a mix of the self-penned and some of contemporary Folk's finest songs. The song that really stands out from them all is perhaps the finest Stan Rogers ever wrote in his short life “First Christmas Away From Home”. Ben delivers it without the full fervour of Stan, and perhaps thus gives it an even more reflective interpretation.

And as on his previous album, Ben is joined on this track and two others by the sublime cello of Nuala Tohill.

The liner notes that accompany the CD are, as with his previous album, generally to be applauded, but with the odd spelling error that seems to indicate a lack of proof-reading, e.g. “Stan Rodgers” (sic). I really appreciated the warm imprimatur put on them by the note from the late Tony McAuley, a much-respected man on the Irish folk scene, and a fine broadcaster on BBC Radio Ulster. A man I know that Ben admired and still holds his memory and friendship in high regard.


Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

Track List (all songs written by Ben Sands, unless stated):

  1. Good to be home - 3.59
  2. Back on the Diet on Monday ­ - 3.18
  3. In Berlin ­ - 4.40
  4. The Verdant Braes Of ‘Screen (Trad, arr Ben Sands) ­ - 3.28
  5. My Mother Won't Let Me Marry (Trad, arr Ben Sands) ­ - 4.28
  6. Green Eyes (Kate Wolf) ­ - 4.19
  7. The Games People Play (Joe South) ­ - 4.41
  8. The Whistling Gypsy Rover (Leo Maguire) ­- 4.05
  9. First Christmas Away From Home (Stan Rogers) ­ - 4.26
  10. The Fairy Thorn ­ - 4.37
  11. Going To Morrow (Bob Gibson/Iain MacKintosh/Ben Sands) - 2.46
  12. Carry This Torch (Tim O'Brien/P.Alger) ­ - 4.34

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